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Jun 2, 2009 8:03 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Village's most iconic open space to become five house lots

Jun 2, 2009 8:03 PM

The subdivision into five lots of one of East Hampton Village’s last remaining and most treasured swaths of open space, a 20.8-acre parcel between Lily Pond Lane and Apaquogue Road, will finally be presented for public comment at a hearing at the Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 11, after a year and a half of negotiations between the Village Planning Board and the applicants.

The proposed plan for the property, which is owned by the Williams family, would leave about 52 percent of the land as open space. The lots range in size from 3.7 acres to 4.4 acres; four would stretch from Apaquogue Road to the pond and the fifth would be on the north side of the road after it passes “Grey Gardens” and turns east toward Georgica Beach.

“The visibility of this property and 
the fact that’s it’s been open space for 
so long makes it a very prominent 
application,” said Gene Cross, the 
village planning consultant.

The land was originally owned by the Olin family, who placed it under a 30-year conservation easement before it was transferred to the Williams family through marriage. When the conservation easement expired in 2007, the family, which consists of five children, submitted a pre-preliminary five-lot subdivision application.

Last spring, some village residents requested that the Village Planning Board require a clustered subdivision, in which up to 50 percent of the property must be preserved as open space, and the building lots are clustered on the remainder. About a year and a half ago, the village passed a law that allowed for the Planning Board to require such a cluster subdivision.

The Williamses have proposed to maintain 52 percent of the land as open space, satisfying the board’s requirements, but they have requested that the open space be included with the individual lots and protected by easements, not divided off as a separate lot.

A conservation easement has been proposed for 5 acres along the northwestern shoreline of Lily Pond. A “viewshed” easement of 4.5 acres is proposed between the conservation easement and the building envelopes.

Other nearby residents expressed last summer what was inevitably a pipe dream: that the village would be able to step in and buy the land. “It’s too expensive to preserve,” said Village Administrator Larry Cantwell.

“This is some of the most expensive real estate in the world,” said John MacLachlan, the attorney for the Williams family. “But if you had to pick an owner to have such a unique property it would be the Williams family.” The family has been in East Hampton for many generations, he said, and owned the land for at least 70 years.

The most significant change to the plan over the last year was the proposed addition of two separate lots, which adjoin Lily Pond on the north side of the subdivision and total 1.7 acres, which increased the open space to 52 percent. The lots would be preserved for perpetuity and cleared to give a view of the pond from the north end that was previously restricted by growth.

These two small parcels “have added a tremendous amount of significance to the open space because it opens up a vista that used to not exist and which makes the open space much more meaningful,” said Mr. Cross.

Donald Hunting, the chairman of the Village Planning Board, said that the board also asked the owners to open up the view from the south end.

By not reducing the lot sizes and instead creating open space through the easements, the owners are maintaining large lots that allow for a larger amount of coverage—that is the total square footage of buildings allowed, including houses, garages, sheds, swimming pools, patios, tennis courts and other accessory structures.

The village code limits coverage area to 20 percent of the lot area, plus 500 square feet, which is the equivalent in size to the building envelopes that the applicants have proposed for each lot.

The applicants’ have also agreed to limit the size of the houses that can be built on the lots to 12,000 square feet. “That was a wish of the board and they acquiesced very readily to it,” Mr. Hunting said, “which was a nice advantage to the village because the houses could be quite large there. They also moved the building envelopes as far as possible toward Apaquogue Road and away from the pond.”

According to village code, the house on a given lot can be no larger than 10 percent of the lot area plus 1,000 square feet. In this case, as the lots are approximately 4 acres, or 160,000 square feet, the maximum size of the houses could be 17,000 square feet.

After the public hearing, the board must make a final determination in accordance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act on the plan’s environmental assessment statement before giving the plan its preliminary approval.

Mr. MacLachlan said that the Williams family has no plans to put these properties on the market. But as Mr. Hunting said, “we have to assume that anything will happen and sooner rather than later.”

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Why doesn't this story tell us anything about the owners other than their last name?
By easthamptoner (34), easy hampton on Jun 3, 09 8:36 AM
Who the hell needs a 12,000 square foot house!
By we could run this town! (129), wonderful Wainscott on Jun 3, 09 3:56 PM
A special law to block one specific family from legally building on their land does not sound right to me. Small-town politics at its worst.

We've all been lucky to have this open space for so long, but alas, the owner(s) have the right to build.
By Agawam Yacht Club (69), Southampton on Jun 4, 09 11:11 AM
wow i can't wait til there on the market to snatch up a few i needs me 24000 square foot of housing
By pinga (90), hamptonbays on Jun 5, 09 4:42 PM
"affordable housing" ? on Lilly Pond lane? are you joking? There might be a room above the 4-car garage for the Salvadorian caretaker- is that what you meant?
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Jun 12, 09 1:42 PM