Fictional Village

Dear David,

In her letter to you last week, Gouri Edlich mounted a spirited defense of the budget prepared for Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott by the Novak Consulting Group. Despite its length, Ms. Edlich’s letter misses the reason why many who have reviewed that budget have expressed skepticism at the prediction that Wainscott taxpayers will suffer just a small bump in overall taxes if incorporation is voted in.

The Novak budget touted by Ms. Edlich is a top-down exercise, a mashup of “comparable” villages. It may describe some hypothetical five-square-mile village of fewer than 1,000 residents, but that’s beside the point. The relevant question is: Does it describe the Wainscott village that C. P. W. proposes to create? The answer is clearly and emphatically no.

Novak acknowledges that its “model represents a ‘base’ where the town continues to provide most services in order to leverage existing resources and staff.” With breathtaking understatement, it continues, “This approach will require some initial coordination, negotiation, and agreement but represents a cost-effective manner to achieve the multiple objectives of the community.”

What are those “multiple objectives”? We needn’t guess, for C.P.W. stated them in a June 22 message to would-be supporters. First, exercise all power to stop the cable landing on Beach Lane. Second, control growth in population, and particularly school-age population, through zoning to prevent multi-family housing. Third, reduce airport noise. Fourth, shape and restrict, through zoning, future uses by the town of its airport property. Fifth, address the proposal to subdivide and develop the sand pit. Sixth, protect Wainscott’s agricultural heritage and local farmers and preserve its bucolic characteristics through more responsive (than the Town’s) zoning. Seventh, enact more stringent energy conservation and green energy zoning codes. Eighth, remediate water contamination and underwrite the hookup of the 50 percent of the village not already on municipal water. Ninth, set and enforce lower speed limits and ameliorate dangerous traffic conditions.

None of these objectives can be achieved through services that C.P.W.’s budget naively assumes will be provided by the town at no additional cost to Wainscott’s taxpayers. These services will be 100 percent the fiscal responsibility of the village. But search as you might, you will not find a single line item or other provision in C.P.W.’s budget that pays for any of it. For example, there is no money provided to remediate water contamination or to pay for the remaining hookups to municipal water, and nothing is budgeted to provide for the additional law enforcement capacity that would be necessary to make Wainscott’s roads slower or safer.

It is, however, with respect to zoning, needed and promised, where the budget is most anemic. The amount budgeted for drafting a zoning code wouldn’t cover a plain-vanilla version, no less one as aggressively green as C.P.W. contemplates, and nothing is budgeted for defending that code against certain and well-funded challenges from developers, homeowners, and even the town itself. Nothing is provided to resist the proposed sand pit development; indeed, no commitment is made to the hamlet study, which is the principal bulwark of an alternative vision of the pit, and nothing is committed to revitalizing the commercial strip, which would seem a necessary part of keeping Wainscott from wandering far off the bucolic path. The only inference that can fairly be drawn from the budget itself is that the village would surrender to, rather than fight against overdevelopment.

In short, the C.P.W.-Novak Consulting Group budget is for a fictional low-tax village, not for a Wainscott village. If the new village tries to deliver on just a few of C.P.W.’s promises, the budget and the tax bills will be several orders of magnitude larger than C.P.W. has been advertising.

In reality, the model budget is for a Wainscott that is merely an instrument to oppose the cable landing. Yet, there is nothing in the budget to fund even that effort. If the village does no more than fight the cable, as it promises it will, expenses and taxes on village residents will be far greater than projected. If residents want to get a sense of how much greater, all they have to do is ask C.P.W. how much it has already spent on lawyers in its crusade against offshore wind.


Wainscott, NY

from a letter to the editor of the East Hampton Star