Skip to main content

Planning Fights Back on Senior Center

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 18:15


A sprawling senior citizens center planned for a wooded site in Amagansett has drawn a great deal of substantive criticism. Now East Hampton Town government appears divided after the planning board formally and correctly said that it, not the town board, should be in charge of review.

To step back for a bit, East Hampton Town Supervisor Kathee Burke-Gonzalez is the proposed senior center’s biggest advocate, dating back to her tenure as a town councilwoman. Now at the helm in Town Hall, she wants to put herself and her colleagues in the position of analyzing the project’s impact on the nearby human and environmental communities. At 22,000 square feet and $31.6 million, the center on Abraham’s Path would be the largest project since the town landfills were sealed off from groundwater beginning in the 1990s.

Opponents of the plans for the senior center have said a lot, calling it extremely inappropriately designed, for example, and citing the excessive cost. It would require removing most of the trees on the roughly seven-acre property. And, being so large, with huge demands for electricity and heating, it could be counter to the town’s stated climate goals. A former town councilman put it well when he said that allowing politicians to elbow aside independent review by the appointed boards would render the town’s ideally neutral planning process impotent. Advocates have been relatively quiet, but one caught our attention when he compared its cost to the asking price of not a few giant Hamptons houses, as if that were a good thing.

There must have been a sense at the town board level that the project might not go ahead as designed, otherwise the attempt to circumvent normal regulations and procedures would not have been something they wanted. As we wrote in December, it’s not too late for the board to start taking on the questions that many in the community are asking. They owe it to their constituents to do so. The planning board and others were put there to help maintain East Hampton’s sense of place and battle back excessive development. If they are boxed out of the biggest town undertaking in decades, what are they really there to do?

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.