By Mahreen Khan
The East Hampton Town Board will buy the green next to the Christ Episcopal Church at the corner of Hampton and High streets, board members agreed on Thursday, July 6. Following a public hearing on the purchase, the town board passed a resolution to buy the 0.3-acre parcel for $520,000 through its Community Preservation Fund.
Sag Harbor Mayor Sandra Schroeder encouraged the town to buy the property, citing a letter the village board had sent to the town board last month. “It’s an enthusiastic support for this acquisition for our village to remain as open space,” she said during Thursday’s public hearing. The mayor said the acquisition would not only help the church and its members, but also the children of the community.
“We want it as a passive park,” Mayor Schroeder said of the parcel, which is sometimes referred to as the Upper Lawn or Upper Meadow. “The most development we can ever foresee is a bench, maybe.”
“At the request of the mayor and trustees, we are considering acquisition to prevent further development in a densely-populated neighborhood with very few opportunities to preserve an open area for passive recreational purposes,” said Scott Wilson, the town’s director of Land Acquisitions and Management.
Two Springs residents also weighed in. Martin Drew questioned whether the property could be developed into a parking lot and was told it was not being considered. David Buda also sought clarification on the purpose of the acquisition.
The board agreed to amend its CPF project plan to allow the property to be used by the church for traditional events such as its annual Easter egg hunt, its Blessing of the Animals ceremony and outdoor summer movie nights.
“We’ve had informal meetings with the village and they didn’t seem to think that was a problem,” Christopher Kelley, the church’s treasurer and attorney, said. Mr. Kelley said that if all else were to fail, the church could apply for a permit as residents of the village looking to host those activities in a public park.
Before the sale is completed, the diocese will work with the town on a management plan to determine who will be responsible for the care of the property upon its change of ownership.
“We hope to get it done by the end of this year,” Mr. Kelley said. “It’s going to require an application to the village of Sag Harbor to divide off that piece and the contract with the town will be contingent on that.”
The church had first asked Sag Harbor Village to possibly buy the property – which was previously owned by the Aldrich family until it was given to the church in the 1930s – in an April 14, 2016 letter from Mr. Kelley. In the letter, Mr. Kelley cited its use as a village resource. Last May, the village board placed the property on its CPF wish list, and on June 25 and June 28, 2016, the church held listening circles with parish members to discuss the plan.
The proceeds of the sale, once finalized, will be directed to an endowment where revenue will be used to bring back a commercial kitchen space, Rev. Karen Campbell told the Express in June.
“What we’re looking at is possibly funding a new outreach program which will be for what we call a ‘community café,’” Mr. Kelley said. “It’s a place for people who are underserved by food service and need a hot meal each week. We’re hoping to be able to do that, while also adding to our endowment because we are reliant on the income our endowment produces to keep the doors open and keep the church functioning.”