If East Hampton Village is to go forward with a proposed central business district sewage treatment system, very serious thought must be given to limiting the growth that it would otherwise allow. The risk is easy to understand: The summer population of the village and town have passed the saturation point. Adding to the burden on infrastructure, housing, emergency services, and the quality life of residents would be irresponsible. Our region is busy enough already, except perhaps in the minds of those who are positioned to benefit monetarily.
A recent estimate for the business district wastewater treatment project put the financed cost at more than $30 million. It would serve Main Street and Newtown Lane, a portion of North Main Street businesses, and eventually extend all the way to Gingerbread and Toilsome Lane — including the site of a proposed restaurant and brewery, but not a townhouse complex in which Village Mayor Jerry Larsen and his wife own a unit. It would include a low-density former lumberyard site, but not the John M. Marshall Elementary School; if Village Hall were even remotely concerned with protecting groundwater, these would have been the other way around. Quite neatly, it also covers the Huntting Inn property, whose ownership has floated expansion ideas, too. The planners have looked at the area around the Red Horse Market and CVS store on Montauk Highway and Cove Hollow Road, as well as the CVS and Post Office at the other end of the business district. As drafted, this is a sop to developers’ dreams, nothing more.
Saying no to growth is almost anathema on the South Fork. Despite complaining about crowds and traffic, too many people don’t want to slow the money spigot. But bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to undermining our cherished sense of place. Up to now, the absence of modern wastewater management has been one of the very few levers the towns and villages have had to control development. Take that away without at the same time imposing brakes on building and the entire spectrum of demands it brings with it risks unleashing disaster.