To Air Farmland Plan

Schwenk subdivision calls for nine house lots
If the Schwenk family’s plan to subdivide 41 acres of Sagaponack farmland goes forward as proposed, nine house lots would be created and 65 percent of the land would be set aside for agricultural uses. Carissa Katz

The building plan for the subdivision of one of the most visible of the South Fork’s remaining farmland vistas, a 41-acre parcel on Montauk Highway in Sagaponack, will be given a public hearing on Dec. 10.

Kenneth Schwenk and his family, who own the parcel, have been meeting with the Sagaponack Village Board to refine the details of the project they call Meadowmere since early this year. Mr. Schwenk is seeking to develop nine house lots clustered in the southwest corner of a property that will also contain nearly 27 acres of agricultural reserve. Eight of the lots will be approximately 53,000 square feet, one will be more than 56,000 square feet, and Mr. Schwenk’s existing house and accessory structures will remain on its 55,000-square-foot lot at the north end of the parcel. The map also features a proposed road that will provide access to the new houses from Montauk Highway.

“The board and applicant have hashed out what each would be comfortable with, and now they are looking for input from the public,” Rhodi Winchell, the Sagaponack Village clerk, said on Monday. 

Since the property is located just 500 feet west of the East Hampton border at Town Line Road, state law mandated that Sagaponack give the town the opportunity to weigh in on the development. In a March 9 memo to the town’s planning board, Marguerite Wolffsohn, the planning director, described the site as not only one of the most visible, but also one of the most “important farmland vistas on the South Fork.” She recommended against creating a new curb cut on Montauk Highway for a road, and suggested that Sagaponack seek to protect at least 80 percent of the farmland. 

At a March 14 meeting of the East Hampton Town Planning Board, Job Potter, the chairman, called the proposal an “ugly subdivision of farmland” and the board urged the village to find ways — including using community preservation fund money — to protect the property.

Sagaponack Village Mayor Donald Louchheim broached the idea of having Southampton Town purchase some or all of the development rights to the parcel during a board meeting on April 9, but Mr. Schwenk said he was not interested in selling them.

As it stands, the map allocates 65 percent of the property for farmland, but that includes a 50,000 square-foot building envelope that will be used for agricultural accessory structures to be constructed on the east side of the existing homestead. The Sagaponack board members designated that placement in order to minimize the impact of the structures on the vista. The existing house, they reasoned, would keep the new buildings out of view from those traveling east on Montauk Highway, and a deep slope in the land would keep the structures largely out of sight from those traveling west. The board has set a 28-foot height limit on the structures, said Ms. Winchell, and before construction can begin within the envelope, Mr. Schwenk would have to return to the board for site plan approval. 

Ms. Winchell said she would be notifying both East Hampton Town and county officials about the revised site map. On Tuesday, Ms. Wolffsohn said she had not yet received the notification or the updated map, but she anticipated that the town’s planning board would once again offer an assessment. 

After the public has its say, Ms. Winchell said, the village planner will present the board with a preapplication report on the project, which the board will need to adopt for it to move forward. If the report is adopted, Mr. Schwenk will then have one year to file a preliminary application for the subdivision.