Montauk Hamlet Study Up for Public Hearing

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A vision of Montauk being reviewed by the Town of East Hampton as part of its hamlet study. Courtesy of Dodson and Flinker

On Thursday, December 6, the East Hampton Town Board will host a public hearing in Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. on its hamlet study for Montauk — the last of five meetings devoted to individual studies aimed at charting a course forward in planning and zoning for downtown centers throughout the town.

Developed by the town with the help of the Massachusetts firm, Dodson and Flinker, and former planning director Lisa Liquori, of Fine Arts and Sciences, the Montauk study explores downtown issues facing Montauk, Montauk Harbor and the Long Island Rail Road station.

Some of its more radical recommendations contend with Global Warming and the sea-level rise for critical economic uses perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean — the motels that support the tourist economy of Montauk. The study suggests coastal retreat should be implemented by the town with those uses relocated to higher ground in the hamlet.

The creation of wastewater treatment plants for downtown Montauk and the harbor area, the encouragement of workforce housing opportunities on second stories in downtown Montauk, and creating mixed-use development around the train station are some of the other recommendations laid out in detail in the hamlet studies.

The Montauk study, along with the rest of the hamlet plans, can be found in its entirety on the town’s website, ehamptonny.gov. Once the public hearings are completed, the studies will have to undergo environmental review before being considered for adoption by the town board into the town’s comprehensive plan. Town officials have said it is possible some hamlet studies will move forward at a quicker pace than others, depending on the community’s support for individual proposals within each of the studies.

In other town news, during the town board’s Tuesday work session, assistant town attorney Nancy Lynn Thiele presented plans to update the town code to prevent commercial property owners from installing temporary, or string, lighting, without a special events permit. The Clark Griswolds of the world need not fear — not only would the temporary lighting legislation apply only to commercial properties, but the holiday season would also be exempt from the regulation, said Ms. Thiele. Residential property owners, under the current code, can erect temporary lighting on their properties for 90 days at a time, any time of year, provided it is for a specific purpose like holiday celebrations or a wedding.

On Tuesday, Ms. Thiele said the reason the town board should consider introducing the legislation is because temporary, string lights are being used by some commercial property owners to “designate certain outdoor areas for additional use.” While the town has attempted, unsuccessfully, she admitted, to use the existing code to keep commercial businesses from using temporary lighting without a special event permit or site plan approval, a legislative change is necessary to give the planning and code enforcement departments the language they need to enforce the town’s intent.

Temporary lighting, unregulated, is generally not Dark Skies compliant. Safety measures are also not in place without site plan approval or review for a special permit, noted Ms. Thiele.

“Lighting on commercial properties is a part of the site plan review and this was a loophole, if you will, for exploiting that,” explained Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.

An exemption for the holidays could run from November 15 to the beginning of January or a few weeks beyond, said Ms. Thiele.

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