Officials Disdain Subdivision

Carissa Katz

“An extraordinary site deserves extraordinary care.” That was how Randy Parsons, a member of the East Hampton Town Planning Board, summed up his opposition to plans for the subdivision of the 41-acre Schwenk parcel on Montauk Highway in Sagaponack, one of the South Fork’s most high-profile farmland vistas, during a Sagaponack Village Board public hearing on Monday. 

Mr. Parsons said he was not speaking in an official capacity but his comments reflected an informal consensus among planning board members, who intended to issue a formal statement after discussing the subdivision at its meeting last night.  

Mr. Parsons was the only person at the hearing to speak negatively.  Sagaponack Village Mayor Donald Louchheim granted a request from East Hampton Town to allow a 10-day period for written comments.

Kenneth Schwenk and his family seek to develop nine house lots clustered in the southwest corner of the property, which would also contain nearly 27 acres of agricultural reserve. Eight of the lots would be approximately 53,000 square feet, with one more than 56,000 square feet. Mr. Schwenk’s existing house and accessory structures would remain on their 55,000-square-foot lot at the north end of the parcel. The site map for the project, which is called Meadowmere, includes a proposed road for access from Montauk Highway and a 50,000-square-foot area that could be used for agricultural structures.

State law mandates that Sagaponack Village provide the town with an opportunity to weigh in on the subdivision because the land is within 500 feet of the East Hampton border.

However, on Monday, Mr. Schwenk and Alice Cooley, his lawyer, disagreed with this measurement. Ms. Cooley presented the board with a survey that she said showed the town border nearly 600 feet away, a distance that would not require the village to notify the neighboring municipality and would not afford special status to East Hampton Town opinion. 

That opinion has been decidedly negative since the planning board first saw the Meadowmere site map earlier this year. At a March 14 meeting, Job Potter, the planning board chairman, called the proposal an “ugly subdivision of farmland,” and the board urged Sagaponack Village to find ways to stop the development, suggesting that community preservation fund money be used.

In his statement at the hearing, Mr. Parsons, calling the property “the last piece of preserved working farmland and scenic open space on Montauk ­Highway,” also suggested using C.P.F. money to buy the property although he said there were several other ways for Sagaponack to curtail its development.

Mr. Schwenk had previously dismissed the idea of selling the land and after the public hearing said he remained determined to maintain ownership because land, unlike money, appreciates in value.

Marguerite Wolffsohn, the East Hampton Town planning director, said on Tuesday that she expected, after the planning board discussed the subdivision on Wednesday, that its assessment would be just as negative as it was in March, and that it would quickly inform Sagaponack of its disapproval.

Mayor Louchheim said that once the comment period ended, the village’s planner would present the board with a pre-application report on the subdivision, which the board would have to adopt for it to move forward.