Town Okays Triune Buy

Wainscott district land to be used for housing

The East Hampton Town Board last Thursday authorized the $900,000 purchase of an approximately 3.92-acre parcel on Route 114 just outside Sag Harbor on which up to 27 units of affordable housing will be constructed.

The property is adjacent to cottages owned by the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, and there is potential for the sites to be developed in conjunction with one another. Despite their proximity to Sag Harbor, both parcels are in the Wainscott School District, whose board registered its opposition to the plan at a public hearing before the vote.

David Eagan, president of the Wainscott School Board, which opposed a previous effort to create affordable housing in the hamlet, said that the district “takes no position on the concept of affordable housing or this board’s policy of seeking to build additional town-sponsored or initiated housing projects.” It does, however, take a strong position on “our community’s desire to preserve and continue the historical mission of our unique school district.” That mission, he said, is character-

ized by the kindergarten-through-third-grade schoolhouse’s open-classroom format, which “promotes a highly collaborative and caring learning environment,” that has been the district’s model since 1730.

Despite having just 279 year-

round residents, its 129 students from ­prekindergarten through 12th grade who live in the hamlet make up 46.23 percent of the population, Mr. Eagan said. Moreover, “Wainscott has multi-

ple multifamily units that are used for affordable housing.” 

But those statistics were cherry-picked, complained David Buda, who said that the hamlet could easily absorb an influx of school-age children resulting from an affordable housing development. The school tax rate in Wainscott, he said, is a tiny fraction of that in Springs, where he lives. “I think the Wainscott district can cope with this,” he said. “The town needs affordable housing.” 

More speakers sided with Mr. Buda than with Mr. Eagan. On behalf of the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, Ed Reale, who is on the trust’s board, voiced support for the acquisition, as well as a joint venture or some other cooperative arrangement by which the adjacent properties’ housing potential could be enhanced. 

Mr. Reale said that his son “had a treasured experience at the Wainscott School. He, his brother, and almost all of their childhood friends can no longer afford to live here. . . . That, to me, is very telling.” 

Arthur Schiff, representing a group called Progressive East End Reformers (PEER), spoke of a “critical need for affordable work-force, next-generation, and senior rental apartments.” 

Michael Hanson of Wainscott summarized supporters’ argument in favor of the acquisition for affordable housing. “The woman at the King Kullen that I chat with, she lives in Manorville. My mechanic lives in Riverhead. The employee at our post office in Wainscott, he lived in Moriches, and the commute in the summer was nearly three hours. . . .  That’s what we’re dealing with in Wainscott.”

After the hearing was closed and the board voted to purchase the property, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said that, “We have to be able to figure out how to accommodate this need and do so as quickly as possible, without abandoning our values.” He acknowledged the concerns of the plan’s opponents, but said that, “if we’re not going to take care of our community” and allow new generations to continue living in East Hampton, “we’ve really lost some­thing important, a core of who we are as a community.”

The town will purchase the property, at 780 Route 114, from the Triune Baptist Church, which acquired the land in 1993 but fell short in its effort to raise money to construct a church at the site.