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Sep 12, 2014 1:42 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town May Consider Purchasing The Former East Deck Motel Property

Sep 16, 2014 3:04 PM

A week before its initial review, a controversial application to turn Montauk’s East Deck Motel at Ditch Plains into a private, members-only beach club has been pulled from the East Hampton Town Planning Board agenda, while the owners float the idea of allowing the town to purchase and preserve the property instead.

The principals of ED40 LLC., which owns the motel, announced on September 12 that they were seeking an adjournment from the scheduled September 17 Planning Board meeting at which they were to present their proposal.

According to his letter to the board, attorney Richard Hammer, who represents ED40, said the decision to postpone the review was “based on a significant amount public comments received,” which led ED40 to offer the property to the town for public acquisition.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he believes the Town Board will consider the purchase. “We agree that that property is very unique, and currently the town owns a public beach on both sides of it, so it might be of interest to the town,” he said.

The East Deck motel was purchased by ED40 from its former owner, Alice Houseknecht, last October for $15 million. As of last week, ED40 had been proposing to add a new 8,000-square-foot swimming pool, hot tub, showers, restaurant, spa and exercise room, gate house, 64 more parking spaces and decking on the 4-acre parcel. To upgrade the grounds further, a new septic system would be installed to handle a daily occupancy of 537 people, along with waste totaling approximately 5,000 gallons. About 14 feet of fill was slated to be brought in to raise the septic system above the flood zone.

ED40’s plan for its high-end private beach club at the site caused an outcry from community and environmental groups in recent weeks, who said the proposal was not in line with the town’s Comprehensive Plan or its Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, because it would increase traffic and compromise both the property and water quality in the area.

When news broke last Friday that ED40 is giving the town a chance to purchase the property with Community Preservation Fund money, some outspoken community members in opposition to the private club counted it as a small victory.

“It’s pretty amazing how much the community came together on this—it’s just overwhelming,” said Laura Michaels, a Ditch Plains resident and member of the Ditch Plains Association. The association’s online petition opposing ED40’s plans has already reached more than 5,000 signatures in less than one month. “I think the property being held as a preserve will greatly enhance the public beach experience and serve as a true model as a sound coastal policy. It would be a strong statement.”

Mike Bottini, the chairman of the Surfrider Foundation Eastern Long Island Chapter, said ED40’s proposal was “poor coastal planning,” since it is within the flood zone and during a storm could be hit with at least one and a half feet of wave action, which “is not a small wave.” He said a 3-foot wave is “a great wave to surf.”

Mr. Bottini, who also writes a column for the Sports & Outdoors section of The Press, said the best solution would be for the town to purchase and preserve the parcel, which would only add to the numerous town-owned nature preserves and parks that sit to the east and west of it. “The town would be leading the way in terms of actual properties acquired there,” he said, later noting that there are 365 acres of public nature preserve and parkland surrounding the motel. “The idea of adding more structure to what should have never been built on in the first place goes against everything Surfrider is about.”

Mr. Bottini said he, Jeremy Samuelson from Concerned Citizens of Montauk, and Kevin McAllister, the former Peconic Baykeeper who recently started the nonprofit Defend H2O, met with ED40’s principals Lars Svanberg and Scott Bradley last Wednesday to discuss the plans and told them that the only acceptable plan would be to sell to the town. ED40 announced the decision to adjourn the Planning Board review two days later.

A series of actions would have to be taken before the town could make a decision about whether to go forward with the purchase.

Mr. Cantwell said the proposal must first be referred to the town’s Department of Land Acquisition and Management and be reviewed by the Community Preservation Fund Committee. It would then go to the Town Board for consideration.

In the meantime, while the town is figuring out its next move, ED40 will continue to tweak its proposal for a private club at the East Deck, according to Mr. Hammer’s letter.

“We will, however, work to revise our plans and improve our presentation for further consideration by the Planning Board while this consideration by the Town Board proceeds and will be in touch with you when we are ready for further consideration by the Planning Board on any revised plans,” he stated.

Ms. Michaels said Ditch Plains Association and others aren’t backing down until they see a solution they can agree on.

“We’re not going to stop anything right now, because we can’t,” she said. “There’s a direction we’re moving toward, and until there’s a deal in place for the town to purchase the land, we’re going to keep going.”

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Hmmmmm...wondering if this was the plan all along. Buy the East Deck for $15MM......create an uproar in MTK.......and then turn around and sell to the T of EH for what I would assume would be a good profit!
By MTKGRL (15), Floral Park on Sep 12, 14 2:35 PM
The Town can only pay fair market value, as determined by two appraisers. So as of now, nothing has changed the value of the land. If they get approvals, and THEN sell to the Town, they could seemingly profit. This is a very common tool by developers who know they have a controversial project on their hands and need to get out with a profit. They will buy a farm, for example, get a subdivision approved which gets everyone in a tizzy, then sell to the local municipality.

As of now, with ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Sep 12, 14 4:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
Is this property not zoned "resort". With a new appraisal, after construction, wouldn't property taxes total 80 to $100 thousand dollars. What about the local trades that would be involved in the project. What is the total loss of jobs and dollars. What about the economic ripple from the lack of visitors to the resort and their discretionary spend with businesses in Montauk. What about the jobs that the resort would need. And all because of some phony access issue. ED 40 will have no more or less ...more
By fact (25), east hampton on Sep 12, 14 5:01 PM
Who hires local contractors, money and greed.....money and greed
By jack1979 (15), east hampton on Sep 12, 14 7:51 PM
East Hampton is being shaped by people that forgot about the locals and there farming and fishing community.....money and greed
By jack1979 (15), east hampton on Sep 12, 14 8:16 PM
Waiting to see the appraisal on this one. This isn't about a beach. There isn't much of one there. Too many special interest groups trying to save the world out her. Go to Haiti any help some poor people. That need you. Where are the locals in Montauk? Take back your town ! The power is going to Some peoples head!
By Woods woman (143), East hampton on Sep 13, 14 8:44 AM
And really..they are asking for the moon here with this development. Getting everyone wound up but have no intention of creating this luxury hotel or resort. They just got everyone's attention and now they will walk away with their millions from EHT as planned. Betcha
By Woods woman (143), East hampton on Sep 16, 14 9:41 PM
Using CPF $ to buy land with viable houses/motels sitting on it is simply a BAAAAAAAAD idea any way you slice or dice it. Then again, some of the people sitting on the Town Board right now have never met a dollar they never earned that they don't want to spend. One idiot went so far to write in the local paper that "shines for all" that perhaps the Town should borrow against future CPF monies to purchase this. Uhhmm - wasn't that a McGintee plan, sort of?
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 23, 14 12:51 PM
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