Hardy Plumbing
April 26, 2006

Montauk: Ancient Area Preserved

Independent / Kitty Merrill Jay Schneiderman examines an old gravesite on the Capurso land in Montauk. He initiated an acquisition of the archeologically and environmentally sensitive land last summer. Last Friday, members of the East Hampton Town Board voted to participate with Suffolk County in the $4.68 million purchase. (click for larger version)
"It's about time," Bill Akin of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk said. Also a neighbor of what's known as the Capurso property, Akin praised the East Hampton Town Board last Friday for moving forward with the public acquisition of acreage located on Gravesend Road, north of the Montauk Downs golf course.

For $4.68 million, the town will buy 14 separate lots owned by members of the Capurso family and Jay Burke, in a collaborative acquisition with Suffolk County. The total land saved comprises about 8.5 acres. Last summer local Legislator Jay Schneiderman got the ball rolling, filing a planning steps resolution before the legislature to kick off the purchase process.

Touring the property with The Independent last summer, Schneiderman pointed out evidence of an ancient Native American burial ground. This week, Rebecca Genia of the Inter-Tribal Historic Preservation Task Force also lauded the purchase and preservation of what is, to her people, a sacred site. "We, the descendants of Algonquin-speaking people of Long Island and New England have a responsibility and an obligation passed on to us by our ancestors to protect the land and the memory of our ancient communities," she said, in offering support for the purchase.

The property was the center of controversy during the 90s, when town officials derailed an attempt to develop it with residential lots. A lawsuit ensued, naming then ZBA chair Schneiderman. At the hearing last Friday, town land acquisition manager Scott Wilson reminded that the lawsuit didn't prevent the eventual development of the acreage. Planners had asked for a full-scale environmental study of the land. It could have one day been completed to their satisfaction and the property carved into house lots. The public purchase has prevented that.

In other acquisition news, the town board moved forward with the purchase of development rights for the Oakdale Farm property in East Hampton last Friday. Readers will recall the matter was the subject of a well-attended public hearing last December.

Supporters of farmers Tom and Lianne Miller took exception to some of the provisions in the purchase agreement. At the time, the town planned to pay the couple $2.9 million for development rights on the 14-plus acre parcel.

Supporters felt the money was insufficient because the accompanying restrictions relating to lot and building coverage would keep the couple from expanding their business.

The published notice of the December hearing neglected to note the purchase price, necessitating a new hearing. No one spoke at last week's outing.

However, when it came time to vote afterwards, Supervisor Bill McGintee said "no."

He told The Independent that he felt the percent of coverage permitted ought to have been "written in stone." As the agreement is crafted, the Millers could seek a variance from the zoning board of appeals to expand beyond what the town code allows. If the town is investing huge sums of money for purchase of development rights, the supervisor reasoned, the town ought to be able to ensure that what it buys is what remains. Without strict language, a seller could take a piece of farmland and fill it with greenhouses from one end to the other, McGintee said, asking, "Then what have we accomplished?"

Also last week, the board scheduled a public hearing for May 5 on instituting permit-only parking at Fresh Pond in Amagansett. For several years, residents of the neighborhood have complained vociferously about weekend volleyball games that draw crowds of Latino immigrants to the Fresh Pond picnic area.

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