Wainscott Residents File Village Incorporation Petition With East Hampton Town

Wainscott residents signed the incorporation petition on Fourth of July. Michael Wright

The Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott submitted a petition to East Hampton Town on December 30 proposing the creation of a new village and calling for a referendum vote by the residents of the would-be new municipality.

State law requires that the town supervisor review the petition to ensure that the proposal meets the technical requirements for village incorporation and issue a determination within 30 days. If the supervisor finds the petition to be in order, the referendum must be scheduled within 60 days.

Only registered voters living within the would-be village’s boundaries would be allowed to cast votes and a simple majority in favor of incorporation would create the village.

The last new village formed in Suffolk County was that of neighboring Sagaponack Village in 2005.

The CPW petition was signed by 212 residents, which the group said represents about a third of the total number of registered voters living within the proposed village’s boundaries. State law requires that 20 percent of the “regular inhabitants” of the village sign the petition for a referendum to be required.

The town on Tuesday agreed to hire attorney Strook & Strook & Levan, a law firm with offices in New York City and Los Angeles, to oversee the incorporation process — for up to $995 per hour.

Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said this week that he will administer the review of the petition as required and advance the incorporation process if it meets the requirements.

“It will be very interesting to see,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc, who has said he thinks that incorporating is a divisive and ill-advised approach by the Wainscott group. “There’s a ton of money on the other side of this. They feel they’ve done everything properly. We’ll see.”

In a statement released by the CPW the day the petition was filed, the group’s co-founder, Gouri Edlich, seemed to hark to a suspicion that Mr. Van Scoyoc’s objections to the incorporation effort could mean he will attempt to block the petition from being certified.

“The strong response to the petition sends a clear message that the people of Wainscott support creation of a new village,” Ms. Edlich said. “At a time when too many government leaders want to nullify the will of the people, we expect Supervisor Van Scoyoc to take a different path and move promptly to call the public hearing and set the date for an election. In the end, all the registered voters in the proposed village should decide this question, not one man. While early indications from the supervisor are concerning, we hope that he will now embrace the democratic process and passion so evident in Wainscott.”

The village, as proposed, would comprise only about half the current hamlet of Wainscott, a gerrymandering made necessary to keep the total area under 5 square miles, as required by state law.

But the organizers have said that once the village is established, the new government could move to “annex” other areas that were left out of the incorporation effort for legal reasons.

Most of those who signed the incorporation petition did so twice, because the initial petition that CPW had circulated in July had used the boundaries of the Wainscott School District as the village’s outline, which overlaps with portions of Sagaponack and East Hampton Village, forcing the group to draw new boundaries.

Consultants hired by the incorporation proponents forecast an approximately $840,000 annual budget that would require a small tax increases for residents. Critics have warned that expanding duties will grow the village’s budget and tax demands, but the CPW leadership has said the village could remain “bare bones” and rely on contracts with other municipalities for the more costly services like roadway maintenance and police protection.

“As the Village of Sagaponack mayor told our community … this small village model has worked perfectly well and all the nay-sayers have been proven completely wrong,” Ms. Edlich said in a statement. “As East Hampton Village Mayor Jerry Larsen said a few weeks ago, village governments are closest to the people and best represent the interests of its people. Considering that not one member of the Town Board or Trustees lives in Wainscott, it’s hard to argue with Mayor Larsen.”