Town Board Receives Message: Wainscott Wants Moratorium

Residents of Wainscott urged the East Hampton Town Board to adopt a one-year moratorium on commercial development in the hamlet's business district at a hearing on Thursday, October 6.
Residents of Wainscott urged the East Hampton Town Board to adopt a one-year moratorium on commercial development in the hamlet’s business district at a hearing on Thursday, October 6.

By Stephen J. Kotz

A proposed moratorium that would halt commercial development in central Wainscott for the next year while East Hampton Town planners complete a hamlet study received enthusiastic support from most speakers at a public hearing before the town board on Thursday.

The board held off on formally approving the one-year halt, pending a response from the Suffolk County Planning Commission, which is required to sign off on it.

Dennis D’Andrea, a Wainscott resident and member of the hamlet’s citizens advisory committee, commended the board for tackling the moratorium, which, he said, was “a difficult task as Sag Harbor found out.”

In recent years, the town board has taken on a number of major tasks, from imposing tougher regulations at East Hampton Airport to adopting a rental registry, said Mr. D’Andrea, who wore a navy blue cap with the words “Wainscott Sewing Society” emblazoned across the front. “Now you have the fortitude to adopt a moratorium,” he said. “I offer you the highest words of praise we have in Wainscott, which are: ‘You’re not all bad.’”

Jose Arandia, the co-chairman of the CAC, said the moratorium was important because it would give the town time to plan for the protection of the groundwater, mitigate growing traffic concerns, and help protect and restore the character of the hamlet.

“Wainscott is under threat today from creeping urban sprawl, poor water quality, choking traffic and dangerous conditions,” he said, adding that the hamlet is the gateway to visitors and residents alike arriving in East Hampton.

The only opponents to the proposal were Jeffrey Freiereich, the executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance, and Martin Drew, a Springs resident.

The business alliance “stands 100 percent in support of the town’s ongoing hamlet study and its goals of presenting a well thought-out master plan for the intelligent zoning and build-out of the Wainscott Central Business District and its environs,” Mr. Freiereich told the board. “However, the business alliance believes the proposed moratorium is not required, is overreaching in scope, sets a bad precedent, and would make the development and building process more arduous than it needs to be.”

Mr. Drew, who frequently offers his comments at town board meetings, said he would support a townwide moratorium but one aimed only at Wainscott would unfairly target the plans of Jim Golden who wants to build a car wash at site of the former Star Room night club site on the north side of Route 27.

“To have you folks just pull a moratorium out of the air because something you don’t like is about to happen is a draconian measure,” he said.

But support also came from Sara Davison, the executive director of the Friends of Georgica Pond. “Random, inappropriate, out-of-contest development like the proposed car wash are what we can expect if the town does not allow for more community supported in-depth planning such as the hamlet study,” she said. “Most important to us is the need to protect the watershed that feeds both Wainscott and Georgica Pond, two of the precious, unique water bodies that make the place we call home so special.”

Ms. Davison also read a letter from Ann and John Hall, who wrote the board: “We are long-time Wainscott property owners disheartened by the traffic and congestion on 27, the lack of aesthetic coherence to recent development, the dearth of parking.” A moratorium would give the town time to develop a thorough plan overseeing both development and the protection of natural features such as Georgica Pond.

Wainscott resident Marion Lindberg also supported the moratorium. She said it was important for the town to allow its citizens to weigh in on their goals for the future. “It makes much sense to put the brakes on for a little while to respect the planning process,” she said.

Simon V. Kinsella, another CAC member, also spoke in favor of the moratorium. “For Wainscott businesses to proper a plan is imperative, and more so for Wainscott than for any other hamlet in East Hampton,” he said.

Mr. Kinsella raised two major concerns. “It is impossible to walk from one end of the Wainscott Central Business District to the other in safety,” he said. “There exists such an incompatible mix of uses within [the district] that all the businesses are disadvantaged, as are their customers.”

He cited how two of those businesses, Hampton Fabrics and Blinds and Rumrunner Home, have to cope with cement dust from the nearby Suffolk Cement plant that covers their displays, and how difficult it is to walk from one end of the shopping to the other.

The moratorium also drew the support of Wainscott resident Phillip Young, who is himself a developer. Mr. Young said he believed a one-year halt would not unfairly delay any reasonable application while preventing an undesirable one from “sneaking in” before the hamlet study is adopted.