The commissioners of the Amagansett Fire District apparently believe they are in a race against time in seeking voter approval on Oct. 4 for buying a former restaurant property next door to the firehouse. Unfortunately, with a public meeting on the subject Tuesday and the balloting to follow only a week later, the district’s taxpayers will hardly have enough time to weigh the pros and cons of the plan. The process should be slowed down.
The urgency appears to be misplaced, or at best, unexplained. The two-acre site has been listed with real estate brokers since 2007 with its price steadily declining as no buyers were really interested. Moreover, the building’s status as a viable restaurant in a residential zone is questionable. The value of the property would be further reduced if it could be shown to have lost its pre-existing, nonconforming status.
At the core of the questions we expect the commissioners to answer Tuesday is what voter approval of the $2.8-million price they apparently have already agreed to would mean for the tax rate. The old Pacific East restaurant building would be removed and a new ambulance facility built there, but the public hasn’t heard what the estimated costs for all this would be. Nor is there time for objective vetting of any numbers the commissioners put forth on Tuesday.
Worth considering, too, is the fact that the East Hampton Fire Department operates from a far smaller site than Amagansett’s already-roomy 4.7-acre lot. East Hampton houses police, fire, and ambulance squads on 2.1 acres. The Amagansett commissioners have pointed out that the department uses the field behind the firehouse for helicopter landings from time to time so that putting an ambulance barn back there would seem to be off the table. Could a redesign of the existing firehouse solve the department’s space needs? We don’t know, but the taxpayers might like an analysis of this alternative before being asked to vote.
Some residents have objected to the plan on aesthetic grounds, saying that Amagansett Main Street should not be home to another brick hulk. These people might be mollified if the commissioners were to put forth a conceptual drawing.
No one likes to be in the position of saying no to the extremely dedicated volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians, but too many questions surround this plan. There is simply not enough time for these important considerations to be fully worked through by those who will be paying the bill. A longer period of review would benefit all concerned.