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Apr 9, 2019 3:57 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Looks To 'Soften' Montauk Planning Recommendations To Ease Concerns

Apr 9, 2019 4:02 PM

Bowing to pressure from some Montauk residents and property owners, the East Hampton Town Board this week asked its planning consultant to remove several portions of the draft Montauk hamlet study that seemed to give specific guidance in relocating hotels and other businesses in oceanfront or low-lying areas of the hamlet’s downtown to areas north and east of the current business district.

The board also requested that the language in the study’s recommendations for other areas be “softened” to make it more clear that none of the suggested changes should be construed as definitive plans for the future in which landowners would have no other option.

The board also has asked the consultant, Lisa Liquori, to drop two traffic circles that had been suggested on Flamingo Avenue in the vicinity of the Long Island Rail Road station, as well as the suggestion that new retail and commercial development could be added in the area to create a third business district midway between downtown and the docks.

“People have misconstrued that this is a conceptual plan—it wouldn’t be taking anything away,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said, in reference to a specific feature, a waterfront boardwalk along the docks area, that was among the many theoretical suggestions the draft plan made for possible redevelopment approaches years, or decades, down the road.

“We need to emphasize that it really is not a requirement. It’s just an amenity that people felt could be attained at some future date, perhaps, or even sections of it, that would be a nice thing.”

The plan had taken the same approach to the “retreat” of Montauk’s downtown. Acknowledging that rising sea levels are likely to make portions of the current developed oceanfront unsustainable, the hamlet study consultants had made similar “what if” recommendations of possible relocation, to areas chosen specifically by the town through a more exhaustive process, and made possible with transferable development rights that would ensure the same number of hotel units would be maintained.

After three years and dozens of hours of public discussions about the Montauk hamlet plan, a new group of residents in the hamlet who had largely not previously participated in the process deluged the Town Board with objections to the suggestions that the major hotels along the oceanfront could be relocated to properties set back farther from the ocean or on higher ground north of Montauk Highway. While many of the new critics acknowledged being only peripherally familiar with the study details, they called on the board to halt the approval process for all five hamlet studies and go back to the drawing board on Montauk.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said recently that doing so is a possibility, but the board this week sought to tailor the study as it exists to address the concerns raised. Some hamlets, like Wainscott, are eager to get the study as a whole approved so that its recommendations can be applied to redevelopment efforts already in the pipeline.

“The goal of the hamlet study is to get to these broad-brush statements,” Councilman Jeff Bragman said on Tuesday.

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I think the real underlying concern is that the Town paid for a comprehensive set of recommendations that are intended to be a guidepost for future zoning,land use regs, and ordinances. Why else would the Town spend taxpayer money on it? That the Study resulted in a plan that reads like Big Brother riding roughshod over personal and commercial interests only exacerbated the issue. There's also a whiff of "be quiet, we know what's best for you" in the discussion over this that is somewhat infuriating.
By Liman (26), Montauk on Apr 12, 19 10:24 AM