Hardy Plumbing
December 21, 2011

Lots To Say About . . . Lots



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Visitors to East Hampton Town Hall had lots to say about lots last Thursday night, as the town board spent its last formal meeting of the year tackling an array of issues. Two public hearings – related to Urban Renewal lots and parcels that comprise a nature preserve – drew speakers to the podium.

First up in the hours long end of year effort was a hearing on a local law amending the town's nature preserve registry to remove three parcels in the Beach Plum Park subdivision located along the ocean on the south side of Montauk Highway on the Napeague stretch in Amagansett from the registry.

The hearing notice states the land was "erroneously" included from the registry, but speakers weighing in last Thursday night disagreed.

Board watcher David Buda conducted extensive research of the history of the subdivision, learning that during the planning process measures were taken to ensure the land was dedicated to the town. The goal was to protect a public sand trail that provided ocean access. The developer agreed to dedicate the property to the town. In 1989 a deed was given to the town.

An intervening mortgage foreclosure put a spanner in the works. A town board resolution dated May 2011, states the preserved lands were "affected by the foreclosure of certain properties within this same subdivision, and now title is uncertain because these properties were part of a mortgage default by the previous owner, and the three lots may have been given to a third party."

That can't occur legally, Buda asserted, as did two additional speakers, Zach Cohen from the town's Nature Preserve Committee, and attorney Rick Whalen, the town's former land use expert. By law, preserved lands can't be given to for-profit entities, they said. Rather than remove the lands from the nature preserve list, the town should take measures to correct the record. Also in favor of ensuring the land remain – or return, depending on legal viewpoint – in town hands was David Lys from the group Citizens for Access Rights.

Although Councilman Dominick Stanzione said there's a consensus on the board to pursue the title, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said they'd need to discuss the matter further at a work session. It's not ready for action.

Neither, apparently is the long aborning plan to bring roads in the Cobblers Hills Heights neighborhood into the public highway system. Bordered by Stephen Hands Path, Old Northwest Road and Hands Creek Road, the land is located in an Urban Renewal Old Filed Map and as such the roads are private. They aren't plowed after snowstorms, and aren't maintained to town standards.

A group of neighbors approached Assemblyman Fred Thiele, and Wilkinson looking to see what it would take to bring the road into the town system. Officials determined it would cost about $915,000 to do the job and each landowner would have to chip in. Those with vacant lots would be assessed an estimated $23,000, while those with improved lots who paid into road improvements when they built their homes would have to contribute about $3800. The town would bond for the project and property owners would pay it off over the course of 15 years.

Joyce Daniels doesn't want to. She was among several speakers who said, a la baseball legend and malapropster Yogi Berra, "include me out." Daniels owns one small, unbuildable sliver of land. She wanted to know if the town would consider buying her parcel. Other speakers opposed to the notion complained their property already fronts on town roads. "I'm against this, for me," Laura Nelson of Old Northwest Road said. It's an encumbrance to pay more taxes for roads that don't affect her, she added.

Henry Ditmer said he owns most of the vacant properties and unbuildable lands in the subdivision and has since 1965. He said he can't afford the increased taxes the plan would prompt and will have to sell off pieces of land. He predicted he'd have to sell at lower values, which could decrease property values in the whole subdivision. Bob Norell said he doesn't think it's fair that he should have to pay more money for an amenity most town residents enjoy. However, it was noted that most people who buy lots in UR maps pay less for their property than those who don't.

Ronnie Cohen who lives on Mulford Lane said she's been trying to get the roads improved since 1988. Retired teacher Myrna Weiss, along with area residents Elizabeth Massin, Michael Mott and Daniel Weaver espoused support for the plan.

Town officials promised, at a meeting on the proposal last year, that before any action was taken a public vote of the property owners will be held.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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