The Sagaponack Village Board this week rejected an application from the owners of one of the village’s last and largest undeveloped oceanfront parcels to build a lone house on a corner of the 43-acre property.
In a scathing decision that echoed much of the distrust and accusatory tone of the board’s queries about the project over the past year, the board said that it was rejecting the application because it appeared to be blatant attempt to circumvent the board’s preferences in the layout of a grander subdivision of the property.
“In reaching this decision the board has been troubled by its perception that the presentation of this site plan application has over and again suffered from an effort to mischaracterize facts or to misstate facts or to avoid facts,” Sagaponack Village Mayor Don Louchheim said at Monday’s meeting, reading from the board’s official written decision on the application. “All of which has resulted in the board’s inability to find the letters or testimony of the applicant to be credible.
“Stated differently,” Mr. Louchheim continued, “an application for site plan approval of one residence on 43.5 acres faithful to village code … could not have been made more difficult than applicant and its representatives made this process.”
The application, filed by an LLC called Sagaponack Ventures, asked for permission to build a single, nearly 14,000-square-foot house on 2.5 acres of land at the northwestern corner of the sweeping Daniels Lane property, at the farthest point from the ocean.
But since the application was introduced last spring, board members have seemed to see the somewhat slapdash application—the decision notes that the house plans submitted with the application was a rudimentary template of a prefabricated structure, downloadable from the internet—as a front for a longer-term plan to develop the rest of the lot in a configuration different from a 2008 plan that the board has made clear is its preferred development scheme.
That plan called for three 3-acre oceanfront house lots at the southern edge of the land, with a fourth lot adjacent to the northern boundary of the western lot—which would preserve the farmland vista from Daniels Lane. The Village Board, which also serves as the village’s planning and development review board, had issued a pre-application approval of that layout, before the application was withdrawn amid legal infighting among the three partners in the venture.
But if the current proposal were approved, putting the lone building lot along Daniels Lane, the board has said it believes the landowners intend to return with a new proposal to subdivide the oceanfront land—in essence, undermining the board’s earlier decision.
The property targeted for the development was initially purchased by Marc Goldman for approximately $15 million, according to town records. Mr. Goldman then reportedly sold equal partnerships to two other investors, Michael Hirtenstein and Milton Berlinski, for $15 million each. The partnership then donated an agricultural easement on nearly 26 acres of the land to the Peconic Land Trust, bringing the principals a windfall of tax credits on the latent development.
The threat of a legal challenge to the board’s decision has loomed large over the proposal due to the litigious history behind the property. The board has had a stenographer to take verbatim notes of all the public review sessions on the application. And the transcripts from the lawsuit among the partners were recently made part of the record in the board’s review of the Sagaponack Ventures application, although no specific portions of the suit were ever discussed.
Sagaponack Ventures’ attorney, David Eagan, left Monday’s meeting immediately following the board’s reading of the decision, without comment. On Wednesday he declined to say whether the owners planned to file a legal challenge to the decision, offering only a written statement on the ruling.
“Landowners everywhere,” he wrote, “should be concerned when an application to build one house on over 43 acres is denied.”
One fine body…