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March 26, 2014

"Take One Down And Pass It Around . . .


. . . Ninety nine bottles of beer on the beach." That could have been the unfortunate ditty sung on Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett for the last two summers.

If the East Hampton Town Board and the Town Trustees can reach an agreement, the litter and drunkenness that have made beach going for residents and families a misery could be a thing of the past come June.

But it's a big "if."

Last Thursday night, Trustee Clerk Diane McNally appeared before the town board and she was not happy. On behalf of the trustees McNally's participated in discussions designed to create a strategy for dealing with the horde of unruly revelers who appeared at Indian Wells two years ago. She participated in strategy sessions, offering the trustee point of view.

McNally told The Independent she was surprised to learn last Tuesday of a town board plan to ban the consumption of alcohol at both Indian Wells and Atlantic Avenue Beach and that a resolution scheduling a public hearing on the ban was on Thursday night's agenda.

If adopted as written, there'd be no boozing on those two beaches during the hours when lifeguards were on duty and for a distance of a half-mile in each direction from the protected beaches.

Clearly exorcized, McNally suggested cooperation and mutual respect between the town board and trustees "is no longer there."

A part of that spirit of cooperation includes refraining from amending laws without trustee approval. She said she left the most recent strategy meeting with an understanding that the matter would be discussed further. Instead, she said, she learned of a last minute proposal that won't have trustee support slated for a public hearing.

When Supervisor Larry Cantwell pointed out the elected body could offer its input during the hearing, McNally countered, explaining the group wouldn't even have the chance to meet prior to the planned hearing date of April 3.

The trustees are not opposed to any type of ban, McNally clarified last Friday. However, she said, the implications to other areas must be considered. If drinking is banned at Indian Wells and Atlantic Avenue, couldn't that just shift partiers to other sections of shoreline, some of which are completely unprotected? "You don't want to take the problem and simply push it to another location. It's a lot more complicated than that," McNally offered.

The clerk believes more consideration of alternatives to an outright ban should take place. The town could commence a pilot program and determine whether the domino effect McNally predicts does indeed occur. Or, she said, "They could do it in Montauk without Trustee consent at all."

On Thursday night, board members voted to hold off scheduling a public hearing until their elected counterparts had adequate time to discuss and weigh in on the proposal.

Speaking of banning things -- the town board did vote to schedule a public hearing on an amendment to the town zoning code that could be construed as a de facto ban of chain establishments.

If adopted as proposed, the new law wouldn't straight up ban chain or "formula" businesses; it would prohibit them in historic districts or within a half mile of a historic building or a mile of a historic district, and require a special permit and traffic study for chains in other areas.

If the law is adopted as drafted, the planning board may grant a special permit for a "formula business" only if the establishment is compatible with existing surrounding uses and is consistent with the town's Comprehensive Plan. To be eligible for the special permit, the business can't be designed to look like other establishments in the chain, and must be no bigger than 2500 square feet.

Should the zoning amendment be adopted, so much for the plan to create a 7-Eleven in Amagansett. The property where applicants earlier this year received a building permit to create the use, then had the permit rescinded, is located less than a mile outside the hamlet's historic district.

The hearing will be held on April 3.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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