Scott Wilson is a slight man with quiet ways, but his quick smile and easy manner are genuine and comforting to anyone he meets. He is the perfect choice for the job of Director of Land Acquisitions for the Town of East Hampton.
Scott came to the town when it became clear that the town needed a full-time person to help bring structure and organization to the job of acquiring land and historic buildings. He came with excellent credentials. Scott was born in Southampton, went to Southampton College for Environmental Studies, and his former job was with the Peconic Land Trust, where he worked for six years. His South Fork roots are very deep, citing his Hildreth relatives. “I guess,” he said, “that for lack of a better cliché I was taught and believe that we should think globally and act locally.”
Laughing easily about his title as director, he will tell you that his job is more like being the chief cook and bottle washer. He is definitely a man of all trades. Among his duties are meetings at land owners’ kitchen tables, grant writing, auditing appraisals, helping run the Community Preservation Fund Committee, writing outreach letters, facilitating with the county, writing town board resolutions for his department, ordering office supplies and doing all secretarial duties.
Scott says he has an open door policy and he never knows what new surprises will walk in the door from day to day. The town is often contacted by landowners, their lawyers, representatives, or land planners who express an interest in selling land. From that point, according to Scott, “the art of gaining the trust of prospective sellers is sometimes difficult, but always rewarding”. He will not mince words, but will honestly and gently tell the seller the process.
Once Scott knows that there is a willing seller, he presents the property to the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) Committee. Scott and committee members often will walk the property, and discuss its merits with environmental planners from the Planning Department, and subsequently, the committee will assign a rank. For further analysis, the Natural Resources Department is also asked for its assessment of the property in an effort to allow the town board to make the most educated decision possible with regard to acquisition.
The property is presented to the town board at executive session and a decision will be made whether to pursue appraisals. One or two appraisals are necessary, depending on the value and complexity of the property or the transaction. All negotiations and subsequent offers are based on the appraisals. If an offer is accepted, a public hearing is scheduled. If there is a positive outcome the purchase will move forward.
Currently, there are more than 1,000 properties listed for purchase by the CPF. Scott says it sounds like a lot, but in reality many land owners are not interested in selling, want to build, or simply need more time to make such a big decision with regard to this asset.
In the near future, the town will be looking at more properties that currently have some development with an eye toward restoration and revegetation.