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Wainscott Village Petitioners Will Try Again

Mon, 04/12/2021 - 14:05
“We are confident of our ultimate victory because of the support we have received in the community to form our own village," said Gouri Edlich, chairwoman of Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott.
Durell Godfrey

Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, whose petition to force a vote to incorporate a 4.4-square-mile expanse of the hamlet was rejected by East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc last month, announced on Sunday that it will prepare a new petition to present later this year. 

“We believe the best alternative is to rework our petition to address the issues he raised, rather than engage in lengthy litigation now,” Gouri Edlich, the group’s chairwoman, said in the statement. Work to prepare a new petition is underway, she said. “The additional timeframe will allow us to make further improvements.”

“As you will recall, Van Scoyoc last month denied more than 600 residents the legal opportunity to vote on the creation of a new Village of Wainscott,” Ms. Edlich said. “Faced with a likely rebuke to his leadership, the supervisor manufactured minor technical issues with the popular incorporation petition that were previously debunked by the proponents’ attorneys. He based his tortured rejection on weighty issues like we did not physically hand him the petition, but provided it to the town clerk who accepted it on his behalf.” 

The group of property owners, who formed in opposition to a plan to land the South Fork Wind farm’s export cable at the ocean beach at the end of Beach Lane, had submitted its petition on Dec. 30. Its well-funded effort to form an incorporated village has divided residents of the hamlet, motivating some to form groups advocating against incorporation and for the wind farm, which received approval from the New York State Public Service Commission last month and remains under federal review. The town board and trustees previously gave their approval and have signed a host community agreement with the developers, Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource Energy. 

Mr. Van Scoyoc announced last month that he had found the petition legally insufficient. He described several findings which he said invalidated it, including that the petition and accompanying fee had been filed with the town clerk and not the supervisor. He also cited the “material false statement” that as of Nov. 20 the petition had been signed by at least 20 percent of the residents in the proposed territory, a requirement under village law. Only 15 people had signed it as of that date, he said. He also referred to “significant discrepancies on the list of inhabitants,” rendering the petition incomplete and inaccurate, and ineligible signers and duplicate signatures as “sufficiently irregular to warrant the invalidation” of all of a petitioner’s otherwise valid signatures. 

The group had implied that it would sue the town board and/or Mr. Van Scoyoc should he find the petition insufficient, as it did in February after the town board approved an easement allowing the developers to land the export cable in Wainscott.

“Wainscott citizens decided against litigating East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter van Scoyoc’s misguided decision to reject our petition to incorporate as a village,” reads a statement issued by Mercury, the self-described “high-stakes public strategy firm” the citizens group has engaged in its effort to thwart the cable landing in the hamlet. 

“Our day has been delayed, but it is coming,” Ms. Edlich said. “We are confident of our ultimate victory because of the support we have received in the community to form our own village. We will get our vote, our voice will be heard, with or without Van Scoyoc’s blessing.”

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