Residents Champion Hamlet Plan for Wainscott

Peter Flinker of Dodson & Flinker Landscape Architecture and Planning spoke during an East Hampton Town Board Hamlet Study presentation at LTV Studios in Wainscott in February. Michael Heller photo

A handful of residents turned out last Thursday to support a proposed hamlet plan for the commercial district of Wainscott — a proposal Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said would serve as a roadmap for the future if adopted into the town’s Comprehensive Plan rather than a tool for making immediate changes in zoning.

The public hearing is one of several the town will host on individual hamlet plans throughout East Hampton over the next two months before it considers adoption. A public hearing on the East Hampton hamlet plan will be held on October 18; the Amagansett hamlet plan will be up on November 1; a public hearing on the Springs hamlet plan will be on November 15; and a hearing on the Montauk hamlet plan will be on December 6.

The hamlet studies began in 2015, led by Peter Flinker of Dodson and Flinker and former town planning director Lisa Liquori, who is now with Fine Arts and Sciences. In Wainscott, the plan aims to address the overall aesthetic of the hamlet’s downtown corridor on Montauk Highway, which, the plan suggests, currently mirrors a strip mall. In the proposed plan there would be the addition of more open spaces and pedestrian walkways, a reduction in the number of curb cuts, the introduction of a roundabout on the busy roadway and more parking behind businesses.

The 70-acre sand pit in Wainscott — a subdivision application is currently before the East Hampton Town Planning Board proposing to divide the pit into 50 lots and a commercial center — is considered as a possible venue for open space, mixed use development, affordable housing and as a potential transportation hub including a new Long Island Railroad station.

Sara Davidson, with Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation, encouraged the town board to consider purchasing the sand pit, which is owned by John Tintle.

“Although this is a plan to enhance and potentially grow economic activity in the hamlet, land acquisition for public open space and for municipal purposes plays an important role,” said Ms. Davidson, noting the recent town purchase of a former nightclub property on Montauk Highway in Wainscott has yielded a hamlet green instead of what could have been another industrial or commercial use.

“With sand mining fully exhausted, the future of this property is the most important decision of the hamlet study,” said Ms. Davidson. “The draft study is not nearly specific or far-reaching enough. Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation encourages the board to think boldly about this once in a life time opportunity to shape the future of Wainscott. They should consider purchasing the majority, if not the entirety, of the land for municipal, recreational and open space purposes. Wainscott is already grappling with the legacy of past industrial activities and the worst traffic in the entire town. Let’s not add to these problems by doubling the amount of commercial industrial uses no matter how well planned.”

Ms. Davidson also encouraged the town board to consider purchasing the restaurant site — currently occupied by Il Mulino — at Montauk Highway and Wainscott Stone Road, and using the site to create more public access to Georgica Pond.

Pat Trunzo III, the owner of the Wainscott Professional Building, said he too supports the hamlet study as a roadmap toward a better downtown for the hamlet, praising the concept of traffic calming and the suggestions about building aesthetics. As a property owner, Mr. Trunzo said he is not alone in his concern about the potential re-zoning of properties in Wainscott, calling the planning board “another way in which the appropriate evolution of Wainscott can take place.”

Sag Harbor resident Kathryn Szoka, the owner of Canio’s Books and the co-chair of PEER (Progressive East End Reformers) urged the town board to make affordable housing a part of the Wainscott hamlet plan and all of the hamlet plans it considers for adoption.

“I would love to see affordable housing be a part of the Wainscott hamlet development,” she said. “In listening to Sara’s request for you to purchase the sand pit, I think that would be an interesting opportunity for the town to develop it to include a significant amount of affordable housing, which we need desperately in all of the hamlets throughout the town.”

“It’s an opportunity to house the probably 2,000 units of affordable housing we need in the town right now, so I do hope you will include that,” said Ms. Szoka, who also advocated for a plan that includes alternative forms of transportation like mass transit.

Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee member Carolyn Logan Gluck urged the board to adopt the plan, calling it a proposal that addresses two issues residents are unified on: traffic and protecting water quality.

“This study comes up with creative ideas for the serious traffic problems that plague our community from Wainscott to Montauk,” she said.

Jose Arandia, a Wainscott resident, said he also supports the study, and cautioned residents and business owners not to view the suggestions as changes that will be immediate.

“There is a misunderstanding of what this long-term proposal does,” he said. “The plan has never been to immediately execute this plan but to recognize it as a long-term vision for how we want Wainscott to move forward.” Phase one, he said, should be exploring the purchase of the sand mine property.

Supervisor Van Scoyoc agreed, calling the hamlet studies “a vision, a sketch of the future” and one that, if adopted, would inform the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Future development and redevelopment would be considered through the lens of the hamlet plan suggestions, he said, if it is adopted as a part of the Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Van Scoyoc added that the hamlet plans could also change, depending on the needs of the town, calling it “a living document.”

“This doesn’t change the zoning anywhere in town,” he added. “It is asking we consider that. Any actual change would have to go through another public process.”