Expand Parking Lot

Town purchase sets off comparisons to Bistrian land

Amagansett’s business district will have a bigger municipal parking lot and perhaps a park, with the purchase of 2.5 largely open acres adjacent to the lot, which was approved last week by the East Hampton Town Board. The land is owned by Tom Field and Herbert Field, who have agreed to the sale. The future of other farmland adjacent to the lot — 30 acres owned by the Bistrian family — remained in contention, however.

Board members heard nothing but support for the Field purchase at a hearing last Thursday night and gave the plan a formal go-ahead.

The land will provide about 80 more parking spaces, a 50-percent increase in the lot’s capacity, according to Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, and a park could be created alongside.

“Getting a park there would be fabulous for Amagansett,” Rona Klopman, an Amagansett resident, said at the hearing. Others said more room in the lot, which is often full, was sorely needed.

A half-acre of the land to be purchased is in joint ownership and will be purchased for $1.1 million. Two acres of a 2.7-acre parcel owned by Herbert Field will be bought for $1.8 million. He will retain a house and the remainder of the parcel.

Because it is agricultural land, only 30 percent of the two acres being purchased can be used for parking; the rest must be kept open. Therefore, the cost of the 2.5-acre parcel will be split, with the town’s community preservation fund paying for 70 percent, which will be preserved for open space or recreation, and capital funds covering the rest, as well as the half-acre in joint ownership.

Speaking about the Bistrian acreage at last week’s town board meeting, Bonnie Bistrian Krupinski said the family’s intent had always been to preserve the farmland through the sale of its development rights to the town. But, she said, after years of negotiations, the town had not offered a price they could accept. Drawing a comparison with the price being paid for the nearby Field properties, she suggested the town commission a new appraisal.

An appraisal commissioned by the owners last year, she said, set the purchase price at $29 million. But, she said, based on its own appraisal, the town made a $19 million offer — “a stark contrast,” she said, to the price being paid for the Field property.

A September 2007 appraisal, done for the Bistrian family on an outright purchase of the property, came in at $32.3 million for just over 30 acres, she said. The appraised value for only the development rights was set at the time at $30.2 million.

This week, in a letter to The Star, Robert P. Lynn Jr., an attorney for the Bistrians, reiterated some of Ms. Krupinski’s points. He provided a summary and verified the value of the property in the 2007 appraisal, done by R.J. Matuza and Associates, though it is unclear whether the appraisal took into account a required agricultural set-aside of 70 percent of the land in calculating how many house lots could be created on the land, which is in a two-acre residential zone. Mr. Lynn did not provide a more recent appraisal by another firm that, he said, the family had commissioned but called it “consistent” with the Matuza appraisal.

His letter read in part: “Absent a reasonable offer by the town, we as the fiduciary representatives of several corporations are regretfully left with our only remaining option, which is to establish the previously negotiated access to Windmill Lane, to the parking lot, and proceed with development of our residential properties — although this has never been our preference. We are suggesting to the Town of East Hampton, if they are truly interested in preserving the development rights to the property, they will need to do a new appraisal after the Field purchase.”

In a letter to the town, the family said they would take matters into their own hands and carve out the road to Windmill Lane if the town did not do so by a mid-October deadline.

 Speaking at the hearing last week, Job Potter, a former town councilman, called the Field deal a “great purchase.” Mr. Potter, who is now on the planning board, agreed that the latter purchase “does create a comparable” —- a sale that is pertinent to gauging the value of the Bistrian land.

“To me these fields behind Amagansett are extremely important to the town,” he said, “far more important than, say, the 555 property, which you did such a good job preserving.” By 555, he was referring to the purchase of property to the east of Main Street that prevented its being developed for housing.

  “Historically, Amagansett’s Main Street consisted of tiny little farms; these historic houses and then the fields behind them that ran north. We have a great historic district there. I think if these fields get developed in any way, it would really be a pity. If the board could find a number that the Bistrians would accept, I think the community would accept and fully support the board in an aggressive purchase,” he said.

“Whether or not we can come to terms in what that value should be, I don’t know,” Mr. Cantwell responded. But the board, he said, “will continue to try.” However, he said, “We have an appraisal; it was done by professionals,” and the board has its own fiduciary responsibility regarding spending from the community preservation fund.