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Aug 13, 2019 6:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Criticism Of Springs Shellfish Hatchery Plans Spreads

A model of what the new hatchery facillities would look like at Gann Road.
Aug 13, 2019 3:21 PM

Criticism of a proposal to relocate all of East Hampton Town’s aquaculture facilities to a property on Gann Road has swelled in recent weeks.

More than 30 Springs residents have signed a petition opposing the project that was circulated by residents of the neighborhood adjacent to where the new facility would be constructed.

Critics have said the project has been advanced too quickly by the Town Board and without enough explanation of the exact plans to area residents beforehand.

Though detailed designs have not been drafted yet, the town has already submitted a grant application for funding that would support the construction, hired an architect, and said it hopes to present the project to the Town Planning Board for pre-application review soon.

Residents say that the proposed 7,500 square feet of buildings, the parking of vehicles and the expansion of in-water equipment is much more than they bargained for when the first inklings of the project were revealed a year ago with the proposal to purchase the lot where the facility would be built.

“When I and my neighbors spoke in favor of this purchase and the redevelopment of the property, there was no whiff of tripling its size,” said Ira Barocas, who lives on Babe’s Lane, the potholed private road that runs south from Gann Road behind the town properties. “The issue is not about aquaculture, per se; it’s about public access. It’s about authoritarian, patronizing government by fiat, in secrecy, in an unseemly rush to overspend public funds just because they are there.”

Mark Mendelman, another neighbor who also co-owns the Harbor Marina across Gann Road from the town facility, said the pace with which the project seems to be marching toward a very specific goal runs counter to the more deliberative process that would usually bring a major new public facility forward.

“Where is the range of alternatives, where were they evaluated, and why was this project made such high priority by the town?” he asked Town Board members last week. “What is driving this project to be so urgent? It feels like a case of ready, fire, aim.”

Both men wondered about the multimillion-dollar cost of the project, which seems to have at its core the saving of time and a percentage of the shellfish grown by the hatchery.

The town proposal calls for an existing 2,500-square-foot house on the property to be converted to an environmental education center and for a new, approximately 5,000-square-foot hatchery building to be constructed on the 1.2-acre lot.

The town purchased the lot last year for $2.1 million and has applied for state and federal water quality improvement grants to fund the estimated $2.6 million construction cost for the new facilities.

The plan is to consolidate the town’s shellfish hatchery operations, which are currently split between the hatchery facilities in Montauk and the in-water growing cages at Gann Road, where millions of clams and oysters are raised before being released in local bays to augment wild stocks.

Opposition to the plans was faint at first, when the first outlines of the redevelopment plans for the property were revealed to the public in March, along with the announced goal to have an application in for grant funding by July. Councilman Jeff Bragman worried aloud at a town meeting then that he did not think the full extent of the development plans had been made clear to residents of the surrounding neighborhood.

Since then, Mr. Bragman has continued to urge the town to slow its progress and to build the plans from the ground up in public discussion.

Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc defended the town’s approach last week, saying that the plans are not fully developed and that there is still to be discussion with residents about how to shape the ultimate designs.

“It’s certainly not whole at this point,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said to Mr. Barocas. “It’s a proposed concept plan, and we look forward to engaging you and the rest of the residents in that discussion.”

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