A proposal to use nearly $2.6 million of community preservation fund money to purchase a .2-acre parcel on Muchmore Lane, a small lot adjacent to Herrick Park in East Hampton Village, drew questions and skepticism from two residents during a public hearing last Thursday.
As they had during another recent hearing, on a proposed preservation fund acquisition of three adjacent, wooded lots on Green Hollow Road, two residents questioned the propriety of the purchase of 8 Muchmore Lane. Structures on the parcel would be removed by the seller before the town takes possession, said Scott Wilson, the town’s director of land acquisition and management. Opportunities to add to park space are rare, he told the board.
Chris Minardi of the East Hampton Village Board called in to the virtual meeting. On behalf of Mayor Jerry Larsen and his colleagues on the village board, he voiced full support for the acquisition. He echoed Mr. Wilson’s statement as to the scarcity of opportunities to expand open space in the village. “We’re very excited” about the acquisition, “whatever we decide to do with this,” he said, suggesting either its use to expand the park or serve as a buffer between it and the adjacent neighborhood.
Jaine Mehring, who last month was critical of the proposed Green Hollow Road acquisitions, and, in September, that of another developed parcel on Muchmore Lane, said that the hearing represented yet another “out-of-plan transaction” for a property that was not on the town’s “extensive C.P.F. target list approved just a couple of months ago.” This raises a concern that public confidence will be undermined, she said.
The purchase price was “at a per-acre equivalent well in excess of anything we’ve seen,” including the other Muchmore Lane parcel, Ms. Mehring said, a .3-acre parcel that the town proposes to acquire for $2.75 million. The board has not provided the public with information or transparency as to its valuation methodology, she said, nor a cost-benefit analysis.
Further, she questioned whether or not demolishing housing within the village’s commercial core “is indeed the best and right outcome.” And she said that Herrick Park is “transitioning from passive enjoyment” to a “heavily used event space” with “significant private interests now funding” a re-envisioning of the park.
As to Mr. Minardi’s “whatever we decide to do with this” remark, “We need to know,” Ms. Mehring said.
David Buda, a frequent critic of the board, asked how the C.P.F. advisory board conveyed to the town board its opinion regarding proposed acquisitions. There seems to be no documentation “other than perhaps rubber-stamping and accepting as valid the evaluation form” prepared by the Planning Department, he said.
He seconded Ms. Mehring’s comment about the property’s use, should the town acquire it. Apart from Mr. Minardi’s remarks, “I’ve heard nothing to say how this adjacent property will be used,” Mr. Buda said. “The public needs to know.”
The hearing was closed.