November 08, 2006
From the Lanes, They Continue to Complain
"Dammit, I'm a supervisor, not a miracle worker!" Were he a fan of the ever-beleaguered Scotty from Star Trek, Bill McGintee might have said that last Friday. Instead, speaking to a contingent of Amagansett residents a town board session, his message was "all in good time."
Last June, homeowners from the lanes in Amagansett visited the town board urging members to enact legislation limiting the size of homes on small lots. Dubbed "McMansions" or "mega-houses," the domiciles are often a result of well-heeled property owners who purchase parcels and tear down more modest, existing dwellings. The end product can be huge houses dwarfing lots, their shadows looming over neighboring properties.
Last week John Sheehy of Meeting House Lane reminded the board he and his neighbors were still waiting for their concerns to be addressed. The issue will be examined, McGintee promised. It is among 92 recommendations of the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan. While the board has made headway and accomplished many of the goals, "There's only so much time in the day," the supervisor said.
"We will get to it," McGintee assured. He added, "You probably don't want to hear this," but the board has attempted to prioritize initiatives to implement. "They can't all be done at the same time," he said.
Additionally, McGintee said many of the homeowners on streets like Meeting House Lane, where Sheehy lives, were given the chance to be part of the Amagansett historic district years ago. Inclusion in the district would have meant restrictions for changes to homes that would have better preserved the character of the neighborhood. People on Meeting House Lane "loudly protested" the notion of inclusion in the historic district in 1999, he said. Helen Sheehy countered, stating the person who protested most vociferously subsequently subdivided an acre of land, tore down a small ranch, and built a 5000 square-foot manse.
Councilwoman Deb Foster said she was hesitant to move forward with some of the Comp Plan's recommendations until she felt confident the document would withstand legal challenges. The plan, adopted in 2005, enacted sweeping upzonings, and did, indeed, prompt about a half dozen lawsuits. So far, the town has prevailed in court with each one.
With those legal victories in place, Foster said she is more comfortable going ahead with legislation that looks at the ratio of building to lot size. "When you start telling someone how large their house can be, you better make sure you dot your I's and cross your T's," she opined.
Foster reported that she's moving ahead with one "creative" way to ensure the preservation of open space and community character. The town is now looking at increasing the percentage of land that must be preserved in new subdivisions. East Hampton's town zoning code is viewed as one of the most progressive in the nation, but Foster pointed out, "You'd be shocked to know the board only requires a 25% set aside."