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East Hampton Town Board Split Over $6.8 Million Land Buy

Wed, 11/24/2021 - 10:03

In a split vote last Thursday, the East Hampton Town Board authorized a $6.845 million purchase of three parcels, comprising 1.92 acres on Green Hollow Road in East Hampton, using $4.2 million from the community preservation fund and a $2.645 million donation from several neighbors whose identities were not disclosed.

The 3-to-2 vote to acquire 28, 30, and 32 Green Hollow Road reflected the comments heard during an Oct. 21 public hearing, when the proposed acquisition drew strong criticism and complaints about a lack of transparency and an excessive purchase price. A fourth adjacent lot, which sold for $1.3 million, is now being developed. The four lots are adjacent to 6.8 acres of town-owned, active farmland. They lie within a special groundwater protection area.

Scott Wilson, the town’s director of land acquisition and management, had told the board at the public hearing that the high price had been substantiated by both appraisal and private bids, and that public-private partnerships are “one of the greatest tools” with which municipalities can preserve land.

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez noted last Thursday that the Planning Department had labeled the parcels “average” candidates for acquisition and that the C.P.F. committee had assigned a “B” rating, where “we typically acquire A-rated properties.” The property is surrounded by 32 acres of preserved land, she said. “At a price tag of $6.845 million, I just can’t support it,” she said, even with the donation reducing the town’s expenditure.

Councilman Jeff Bragman also voted against the acquisition, saying that it does not meet the standard for C.P.F. acquisitions. “I found it unsettling that the Planning Department rated this as only an average property,” he said. “It seems to me the primary beneficiaries of this purchase are the homeowners nearby.” He was also concerned about “the structure of this transaction, which will result in significant tax deductions. I don’t see this as having nearly the kind of public benefit that matches the price, which is a considerable price.”

But Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said that “East Hampton really is at a crossroads,” with rampant development and “larger and larger houses” being built. He warned of “McMansions” that would surely rise on the three properties should they be purchased privately. Like the adjacent parcel that was cleared and is being developed, “I think the pattern is going to be repeated on the additional three properties there,” he said, “because that farm view is what spec builders are selling these houses for, and that’s what’s driving the value on this property.” The considerable cost is worth preventing development, he said, adding that he had personally received numerous emails from residents in support of the acquisition.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman David Lys also spoke in support of the acquisition. The parcels’ development would “spoil any of the surrounding preserve land in a way that really reflects the worst of what East Hampton could become,” Ms. Overby said.

The view has already been “scarred by one house,” and few agricultural vistas remain in the town, Mr. Lys said. Acquisition would be in the spirit of the C.P.F.’s intent and “a win for the overall community.”

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