M.C.A.C. Goes From Erosion to Lightbulbs

East Hampton Councilman Dominick Stanzione spokewith Marguerite Wolffsohn, the East Hampton Town planning director, at the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday and agreed that they should narrow down the hamlet’s most important issues and lobby the town board to prioritize them. Janis Hewitt

    It was another rousing meeting of the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday. Beach erosion was a primary concern, and Steve Kalimnios, the owner of the Royal Atlantic Resort Motel, spoke passionately about his efforts to save it.
    Members and guests, including Marguerite Wolffsohn, East Hampton Town’s planning director, and Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the East Hampton Town Board liaison to the committee, also addressed the best way for a hamlet study to get done. In the end, all agreed that the hamlet would be better served by an outside professional planning organization.
    After considerable comment about the concrete septic rings that were put on the ocean beach in front of the Royal Atlantic in an effort to keep it from falling into the sea, Mr. Kalimnios stood, saying he was offended by the members’ statements. He warned the group that if his 60,000-square-foot building was allowed to go, it would create a breach into the downtown area.
    An order to remove the rings had been issued on Jan. 11 by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the motel owner said he was working with the D.E.C. in a timely manner to have them removed. The agency had given permission for them to be installed only as an emergency measure.
    “They’re not after me like everyone here seems to be,” Mr. Kalimnios said. “If my building is to go in the ocean you get a breach that will swallow up sections of downtown Montauk. Has anybody thought of that? The water is into me, through me, and into the town. Do you think I want them there? Do you think I don’t want my beach back?” he asked, his voice raising.
    Noting that the building had been rocked by storms before Hurricane Sandy did its damage, Mr. Kalimnios said the building’s footings and foundation are now exposed and the foundation is cracked. He said the company that insures the motel had questioned whether every precaution had been taken to secure his asset. “He’s ready to tell me that my $40 million dollar property might no longer be insurable,” he said.
    Ms. Wolffsohn attended the session because she had been asked to review the recommendation that a hamlet study be done. At last month’s meeting, the group discussed a letter from East Hampton Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley requesting that the town’s citizens advisory committees tackle such work as additions to the town’s comprehensive plan.
    Members balked at the suggestion, claiming they were not professional planners and saying the work should be left to the town’s Planning Department. But Ms. Wolffsohn said the Planning Department was understaffed. Moreover, she said the department’s priorities were dictated by the town board. “We have five bosses. They tell us what to do,” she said.
     After Ms. Wolffsohn suggested that the committee could limit its study to certain pertinent items, it was agreed that the most important concerns were coastal erosion, sewage treatment, and lighting, or lack thereof, in the downtown area. Nevertheless, members insisted professional planners should do the work.
    As to lighting, Dan Stavola, a member, reported that the bulbs in at least nine of the downtown streetlight fixtures were out.
    “It’s pitch black, rather than talking about this for the next two years, can we just get the light bulbs changed? I want to make the motion because nobody does anything,” he said.