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Wainscott’s Future Needs a Fine Comb

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 21:12

Editorial

The move by a number of Wainscott property owners to create a new village may have gotten going for the wrong reasons, as we see it, but it is worthy of attention nonetheless.

Wainscott Inc. has its roots in antipathy for an underground electric cable to link the Orsted/Eversource offshore wind turbines to the power grid. Antipathy also may come from some residents who fear a potential affordable housing complex would add more students than the hamlet’s modest school building can handle. There may be some overlap as well from pro-village people who see Montauk Highway in Wainscott as a bit of a dumping ground for eyesore businesses and want to do something about it. More, maybe nearly everyone is irritated by East Hampton Airport’s seasonally incessant helicopter and jet traffic.

You can’t blame south-of-the-highway Wainscott for wanting to preserve a bucolic gem. The area between Town Line Road and the Georgica Association has retained a charm evocative of the South Fork as it used to be. And however the Town of East Hampton has treated Wainscott in the past, it could always get worse. Montauk is a case in point. Town officials, both elected and career, have failed in managing change there, and Wainscott residents are right to be afraid their hamlet could suffer in a similar way.

Why decades of successive town boards have mismanaged growth cannot be said for sure. Consultants get hired to prepare expensive studies that are shelved as soon as they are completed. The much-fought rental registry, which was supposed to get control of the explosion in short-term rentals, ended up a bust. Loud — and now dangerous thanks to Covid-19 — private parties are allowed to carry on unimpeded. Sensible coastal policy recommendations are dropped after a few angry voices speak out. Really, there is nothing in the way of all this to stop its happening anywhere within town jurisdiction.

Wainscott might be headed toward incorporation for all the wrong reasons. But if in doing so it can avoid the worst of what has happened elsewhere in East Hampton, forming its own village might just be the best thing that could happen to it.


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