Hardy Plumbing
January 19, 2011

Amagansett: The Affordable Apartment Epicenter?

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Recently ardent activist Joan Tulp reminded the East Hampton Town Board that volunteers who love her hamlet have worked for decades to make sure Amagansett "stays the same." Given the volume of potential – and already approved – development on the horizon, residents of the community nicknamed "I'm Against It" are going to have their work cut out for them.

A 40 unit senior affordable housing complex is set to break ground on the south side of Montauk Highway diagonally across from the IGA shopping center on land owned by St. Michael's Lutheran Church. Next week the East Hampton Town Planning Board will review a new proposal to develop a parcel on the north side of the highway, almost adjacent to the shopping center, with 36 affordable rental apartments in four separate structures. Land next door to that parcel slated to host a controversial music festival this summer may be developed with six upscale abodes and further west, on the site of the defunct Pacific East restaurant, there's a plan to create a community food education center.

Still smarting from the town board's approval of the two day music festival on Rick Principi's farm, last week members of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee learned of still more change – and traffic – on the horizon. "It's going to be interesting, real interesting," ACAC chair Rona Klopman predicted.

Longtime board watcher and lifelong Amagansett resident Elaine Jones was less circumspect. Speaking of the land Principi will lease for the festival, and the adjacent acreage where he proposes the affordable apartments, she said, "The Town of East Hampton could have bought that property back when Ricky offered it to them and they turned him down. It could have been preserved long before and now look what's happening." The rejection of a proposed purchase took place in the 1990s.

"We turned it down? Oh, my God, that's unfortunate," Councilman Dominick Stanzione intoned after learning of the failed sale. Preservation of the "visually compelling" farm acreage could be something to consider if the community favors such a move, he mused.

During the planning process for the St. Michael's senior housing complex on the south side of the highway, Jones expressed deep concerns about whether the developer will be able to ensure safe access to the highway from the site. Learning of the new project, just tenths of a mile east on the north side, she groaned. "If all these plans come to fruition, oh my God. Amagansett is going to change just like the rest of town."

Principi's preliminary site plan application for Amagansett Commons Affordable Housing was submitted to the town last month. It seeks approval to construct four structures with a combined building coverage of 18,950 square feet. Of the 36 apartments proposed, 24 units will boast two bedrooms, while 12 harbor a single bedroom. "The buildings look like barracks," Klopman opined.

Promoters of the Amagansett Food Institute have yet to file any applications with the town. However, they met last year with representatives of the local food pantry in an effort to garner support for the project. The "edible manhattan" website described AFI's goal: "Funding to buy the Pacific East property on Amagansett's Main Street and replace it with a new community food education center with a professional kitchen open 24-hours a day to qualified users; space to meet, for demonstrations, lectures, classes; a farmers market; possibly a cafe." The AFI website also lists a food pantry and wine, beer and cheese making among activities a center might offer.

Jones believes zoning will put the kibosh on the culinary institute proposal. Burdened by a pre-existing non-conforming use designation, a property can lose its commercial use if it ceases to be operational for a certain period of time. Both Jones and Klopman noted the restaurant has not opened in a number of years.

ACAC will likely send representatives to the planning boards meeting next week, when the affordable housing plan is slated to be discussed, Klopman said. It's on the agenda for the CAC's February meeting as well.

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