East Hampton Town plans to purchase 7 acres off Abrahams Path that it hopes to use as the site of the new town senior services center and the East Hampton Food Pantry.
The lot, which will be subdivided from a larger parcel owned by Alexander Kabbaz Jr., will be accessed from Abrahams Path but largely set back far from the roadway. It lies immediately to the south of the town-owned athletic fields and indoor hockey rink complex and “provides a quiet, natural setting for the new senior center, with ample room for parking, additional amenities and/or future expansion,” as the town described it in its statement announcing the purchase.
“The proposed site for the new senior center gives us the ability to create indoor spaces that are light-filled and purposeful as well as outdoor spaces that are naturalizations and tranquil, all while being environmentally responsible — as energy needed to run the new center will come from renewable sources,” Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said in a statement announcing the agreement with the Kabbaz family. “I look forward to continuing our collaboration with seniors in our community on the design of the new indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as programming they would like to see take place once they’ve settled into the new center.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez last week asked that the town scrap the designs for the new senior center building that it had drafted in 2018 with the intention of building the new facility on the existing senior center property, which is only 2 acres. But the town scrapped that approach in 2019 when covenants on the property proved too constricting and have been in talks with Mr. Kabbaz and his family since that fall. Ms. Burke-Gonzale has asked the town to put out a request for proposals for an entirely new design of the building with the new larger site in mind and with an eye toward being able accommodate new services that the town would like to offer.
In Monday’s announcement, the town said that the vision for the new facility includes expanded wellness programs, yoga and dance programs, meditation and health screenings, lectures and spaces for independent gatherings like book clubs, card games, art classes and movie screenings.
At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez applauded the work the town Human Services Department has done during the pandemic to help vulnerable senior citizens stay in their homes as much as possible: delivering more than 67,000 prepared and frozen meals to senior citizens.
But when the pandemic is over, she said, the town expects to see a renewed rush of demand for the communal programs it offered at the current senior center on Springs Fireplace Road, which are already overtaxed.
“Some of our popular town programs, like the lunch and adult daycare, daily exercise and social programs, the reason they are limited is because we have such a shortage of space,” she said. “We’re turning away people because of the size of the space. If the space is there and the space is right, I think there will be lots of seniors in our community who are going to take advantage of these programs.”
She also noted that demographic studies have shown that the East Hampton community can expect to see a growing population of senior citizens in the coming decades.
The proposal found universal support from other members of the Town Board.
“I think this is a great location — it’s got the space and it’s going to be beautiful in that wooded area,” said Councilwoman Sylvia Overby. “It’s going to be much better than the siting we had limited at Springs Fireplace. I think this serves a lot of the needs of our senior community.”
The current center sits on about 2 acres of land. The new site will be little more than 2 miles away and, Ms. Overby noted, not on as busy a roadway as Springs Fireplace.
Councilman Jeff Bragman said that he would prefer to see the new design be only a one-story building, though other board members said they would rather see a two-story building to keep the footprint of the building smaller.
Earlier discussions of putting the new facility at the former CDCH school building on Stephen Hands Path in Wainscott were met with concerns from senior citizens about the facility being too far from where many seniors live in the Springs.
Mr. Kabbaz, whose grandmother once ran an artists retreat and gallery known as Lucia’s Woods on the property, has agreed to subdivide out the 7 acres from the total of 14 acres and sell it to the town for $1.63 million. Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said that Mr. Kabbaz has also pledged to give the town the right of first refusal should his family ever decide to sell the rest of the land.
The board will schedule a public hearing on the purchase of the land next month and the town Planning Board will have to review the subdivision proposal before the purchase can happen.