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Six Million Buys Five Waterfront Acres

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 08:21

Acquiring land for preservation was on the agenda when the East Hampton Town Board met last Thursday, along with affordable housing. 

Following a public hearing last month, the board voted to acquire three parcels on Gardiner's Bay near Albert's Landing in Amagansett, together comprising about five acres of vacant waterfront property. Two were bought with community preservation fund money; the third was donated by its owner, who has also pledged a sizable amount toward the purchase of the other two. 

The town will acquire 3.55 acres at 28 and 24 Broadview Road from Joseph and Nancy Walker for $9.3 million. Salvatore Graziano, the owner of 20 Broadview Road, will donate that 1.46-acre parcel and $3.3 million toward the purchase of the other parcels, making the town's outlay $6 million for five acres. 

The parcels are within the Suffolk County Pine Barrens, a scenic area of statewide significance, and the Peconic Estuary Programs Critical Natural Resource Area.

Scott Wilson, the town's director of land acquisition and management, told the board at the public hearing that, though the Walkers' parcels, which were merged, had not been recommended for acquisition in the C.P.F. plan, the land contains bluffs and is within an environmentally sensitive area. The Planning Department therefore considered them "a strong candidate for purchase," he said, with the potential to improve the water quality of areas far beyond -- such as Napeague Bay and Fresh Pond -- by precluding development.

But the board, Mr. Wilson said last month, was not willing to make the acquisition without the third lot, at 20 Broadview. Mr. Graziano's donation of that parcel would benefit the movements of wildlife, he said. 

Mr. Graziano called in to the June 17 virtual meeting, explaining that he and his wife also own 22 Broadview Road, which is developed. Their intention, he said, was always to build a house for their children at number 20, but "land preservation is important." He conceded that his family would benefit from the town's purchase of the adjacent parcels for open space, but so would the town at large. It was "a bittersweet transaction," he said, but one his family was making for the good "not just of ourselves." 

David Buda, a Springs resident, had called the proposed purchase "an extraordinary waste of C.P.F. funds," suggesting at the public hearing that it was "the single most inefficient expenditure of C.P.F. in the history of East Hampton." A Planning Department rationale that the  acquisition would provide public access to the adjacent beach was "poppycock," Mr. Buda said, given a high bluff, which is already protected by a scenic and conservation easement, and the Broadview Property Owners Association's ownership of the beach. The assertion that the acquisition would impact water quality was "far-fetched," he said.  

He was less vocal in discussing the proposal last Thursday, but the acquisition was made over the objection of one board member. "I don't think this purchase is going to do much for public access at all," said Councilman Jeff Bragman, echoing Mr. Buda's previous complaints. "I don't see how it affords the town or residents a significant amount of additional protection." The main beneficiary, he said, was Mr. Graziano. 

"This property represents 50 percent of the remaining undeveloped coastal bluff in Amagansett," said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. Preserving property in large areas contiguous with coastline "means certain wildlife have an opportunity to nest and reproduce. This is prime habitat for bald eagles," and even a single house would likely foreclose a parcel as a potential nesting site, he said. Mr. Graziano's monetary donation meant that the town would acquire the merged parcels at a cost below their appraised value. "It's a great acquisition," he said. 

Also last Thursday, the board held a public hearing on the planned acquisition of nine parcels of farmland in Amagansett from the Bistrian family using $28 million from the community preservation fund, a proposal announced last month. A resolution to that effect passed on Tuesday, making it official. It is the town's largest purchase of farmland to date. 

The land is adjacent to Amagansett's commercial core, north of Main Street and stretching to Town Lane. It has long been a target for acquisition to ensure the preservation of its prime agricultural soils, as well as the open vista stretching north from the hamlet's municipal parking lot. The Bistrians had previously proposed residential development on the property.

The town will buy five of the lots outright, a total of 17.5 acres, and acquire an agricultural easement over the remaining 15.1 acres. The purchase, for $16 million, is to be completed by year's end, and the town will acquire the easements over the remaining parcels, for $12 million, before the end of 2022, ensuring that the acreage remains in an open, undeveloped, and scenic state and available for agricultural and open space purposes. 

After several questions and discussion between Mr. Van Scoyoc and Mr. Buda, the hearing was closed. 

Also on last Thursday's agenda was a continuation of a public hearing on an affordable housing overlay designation proposed at 395 Pantigo Road in East Hampton, previously acquired for $2.5 million in a court-ordered auction. A town advisory board had recommended the designation in February, and the Planning Department concurred. 

Previously discussed plans called for up to 56 attached apartments on seven northerly acres of the 12-acre parcel. Last Thursday, two adjacent property owners on Spring Close Lane and an attorney representing them asked that they be included in the planning process.  

The property owners, recognizing the need for housing, offer their qualified support for the affordable housing overlay designation, said David Filer, the attorney, but he asked for "certain conditions based on that support." 

Chiefly, he said, his clients would like to see the housing on the southern end of the property, leaving open space on the northerly side. "We're asking that you flip the current layout from housing in the back to housing in the front and open space in the back," he said. 

"In addition, our clients prefer that any affordable housing development be single-family houses," as opposed to a complex of multi-unit structures. This, he said, would be in keeping with the existing character of the neighborhood. "We want affordable housing, but we want them to blend in." 

Mr. Filer's clients offered similar comments, and the hearing was closed. 

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