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Quail Hill to Get Its Barn

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 12:48

The East Hampton Town Planning Board made it clear last week that it will approve an application from the Peconic Land Trust to build a 4,000-plus-square-foot barn at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.

The 30-acre farm, which is bordered by Old Stone Highway, Side Hill Road, and Deep Lane, is on land that was donated to the Peconic Land Trust in 1989 by Deborah Ann Light. The proposed one-and-a-half-story barn on the east side of Deep Lane would be used to store farm equipment and would contain an office and a bathroom, for which a nitrogen-reducing septic system would be installed.

At the initial hearing on the proposal in February, Richard Whalen, a lawyer for the land trust, said the farm, which has never had a barn, had sought to build a 2,800-square-foot one on the property in 2017. The planning board had approved the project, he said, but the land trust withdrew the application after a neighbor to the north, who was unhappy with the barn’s proximity to his property, filed a lawsuit seeking to have the approval overturned.

The site plan now calls for the barn to be placed farther south on the farm, and within the property’s agricultural easement, he said. Only structures that have an agricultural purpose are allowed to be built within the easement.

On Sept. 11, at a public hearing on the proposal, Richard Schwag, the neighbor who had filed the 2017 lawsuit, and Jennifer Juengst, his attorney, objected to the new location.

Ms. Juengst had said the easement prohibits the installation of a septic system, and that construction on the farm would destroy the protected topsoil. 

In response, Mr. Whalen pointed out that the easement permits the installation of a septic system and other construction when it is “reasonably necessary for” and “in aid of agricultural operations and activities.”

“We need equipment, we need machinery, we need vehicles, we use them on the property. It’s certainly reasonably necessary at this time for the land trust to build a barn,” he said.

The board agreed with Mr. Whalen’s interpretation of the easement’s language. “They’re not putting up a house with a big septic system, they’re just putting in a small toilet for an office, and that is allowed under this easement,” said Sharon McCobb.

Jameson McWilliams, the board’s legal counsel, agreed with that assessment. “The town typically interprets this easement language in this exact way — if there is sanitary solely to service the agricultural structure, that is permitted,” she said.

At the public hearing, Mr. Schwag had said he was also concerned that the barn would create safety issues. The farm also has land west of Deep Lane, and vehicles crossing the road, he said, would present a hazard to pedestrians. The property across Deep Lane, he said, would be a better spot for the barn.

In a memo to the board, Eric Schantz of the town Planning Department, addressed the safety concern. “Deep Lane is not a heavily used roadway, and there is no record of such accidents submitted to the board,” he said.

 As for the alternate site Mr. Schwag suggested for the barn, Mr. Schantz said in his memo, it is not the board’s duty “to dictate what property is most appropriate,” but rather to determine whether the proposal before it meets its standards.

Kathy Cunningham, the board’s vice chairwoman who was presiding over the meeting, deemed the application ready for approval, but with one condition. “My only caveat would be that whatever special events happen [at the farm] should meet special event permit requirements,” she said.


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