A Cautionary Tale - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1777564

A Cautionary Tale

A plan for a new theater, an expanded park at the entrance to Sag Harbor, relocating businesses affected — it all sounds like a plan with great promise and potential. I, for one, am all for greater investment in the arts and culture.

But I thought I might shed some light on the possible consequences of your noble, yet secret, generosity.

I lived in Burlington, Vermont, for many decades before moving to Sag Harbor, and in the late 1980s a broad waterfront development plan was created with local and Boston architectural firms. The plan called for the creation of new land north and south of the city’s Lake Champlain waterfront, reaching out into the lake to create a more protected harbor — along with new property on which to build more small shops, restaurants and park areas.

Burlington loved it! It created more access to the lake, more pedestrian areas and more harbor for boaters to anchor in. A large detailed model remained under glass outside city hall for residents to ogle over.

It was the talk of the town for more than a year — until someone asked who was funding this multimillion-dollar project.

There were a handful of donors; however, the one donor contributing over 75 percent of the funds had done so with the stipulation that her name not be released to the public.

Questions proliferated, debates grew more suspicious, and the rumors created scenarios so outlandish that no one knew what to believe. The anonymity continued for a long time, until the protests dominated all aspects of the project.

By the time the major donor revealed her identity, it was too late. Trust had been eroded, and the public gave it a big thumbs down. The entire project, leasing agreements and contracts with developers were thrown in the trash.

It was a dream that never happened for Burlington, because the quarterback wanted to play the game without putting on the uniform.

The way I see it, you are either all in or you should not step onto the field.

Howard Mitchell

Sag Harbor