Just Say No

East Hampton Village should have just said no to a smoke-and-mirrors request from representatives of Ronald Perelman, the owner of the Creeks estate on Georgica Pond, at the outset. Mr. Perelman seeks a new zoning classification created for him alone specifically to legalize illegally built structures there. Instead, though skeptical, board members are taking time to consider the proposal. They should not have been so polite. 

Mr. Perelman’s problems at the Creeks are of his own making. The legal tangle there was triggered only by an accidental discovery following a 2012 fire, when a village inspector noticed that considerable illegal construction had taken place. Since then efforts to bring the property into compliance with the law have been stymied. 

Now, Mr. Perelman, who has not been a good neighbor to the pond over the years, according to his representatives’ admissions, is dangling a carrot before the board. In a March 2 presentation, his representatives said there were 17 septic waste systems on the property, and that apparently not all of them had Suffolk Health Department approval. If Mr. Perelman were granted the new zoning, he would then upgrade to the latest waste technology, they offered.

That he and his representatives would try to leverage doing the right thing only now in exchange for a sweetheart zoning deal is offensive. He could have afforded to make upgrades years ago; he was listed by Forbes in 2016 as the 33rd richest American.

Village Trustee Barbara Borsack put it right at the March 2 meeting: “If we are dealing with someone who doesn’t care about the rules, even if we put all these new rules in place, why would we assume that they would be followed?”

If officials give Mr. Perelman what he wants, it would in effect be rewarding him for flouting the law. If he gets what he wants, other wealthy village landowners are sure to take note and to clamor to be next in line for special treatment. 

As hard and expensive a fight as it may be to get Mr. Perelman to remove the illegal construction at the Creeks, that is the only right approach, and the village should be ready to slug it out over the long haul.