Where We Stand
The application before the East Hampton Town Planning Board, Sag Harbor Cottages Site Plan, is on a unique and environmentally sensitive parcel of land zoned A5, but contains a pre-existing, non-conforming use, a motel development. The property is in the South Fork Pine Barrens, has extensive wetlands that lead to Little Northwest Creek, is a State and local significant fish and wildlife habitat, is in the Suffolk County Pine Barrens, the South Fork Special Groundwater Protection Area and is in the Harbor Protection Overlay District.
The East Hampton Conservators represents a committed group of citizens dedicated to protecting the environment and our pure drinking water along with controlling development and preserving open space.
The re-development of this property to contain 12 motel units, a separate building for an office, swimming pool, cabana, pool house, pavilion, pool equipment and bathroom building, a two story laundry service building, and a two story storage building is an expansion of what currently exists on the property. Our concern is the amount of clearing that is proposed on the pristine portion of the property that is necessary for the many out buildings and support structures associated with the motel rooms. The East Hampton Conservators feels strongly that a site plan with less clearing is possible and preferable for the health of the environment and extensive wetlands.
Although the applicants have agreed to re-vegetate a large portion of the property that is already cleared, large areas of new clearing of “the only White Pine Forest on Long Island” is part of this application. The amount of new clearing is unacceptable and can be remedied with careful and thoughtful planning by the applicant and planning department. The applicant should state how the clearing of pristine sections of the property would affect wildlife and fish habitats as well as affects on the aquifer, wetlands on this property and the surrounding NY State owned properties and Little Northwest Creek.
Of grave concern is the determination that, although this property is in the Harbor Protection Overlay District which mandates a 4-foot separation for the septic system, this application is allowed to have only a 2-foot separation. A recent newspaper article by Bay Keeper Kevin McAlister demonstrates that the increased amount of nitrogen leaching into our aquifer and surface waters from septic systems is having a detrimental effect. Allowing this application to side-step the HPOD requirements should not be allowed. At the very least, the applicant should be required to have a 4-foot separation in order to protect the wetlands, Northwest Creek, associated habitats and the aquifer. A positive declaration for SEQRA should be declared so that the applicant can prove that the reduced separation will not cause a detrimental effect to the environment.
Additionally, the EHC is concerned that a planning board member was quoted in the papers as saying that a septic system with less then the required vertical separation is acceptable because it is “a football field away” from wetlands and the waters of Northwest Creek. Our fear is that this board member is uninformed and does not really understand how water flows or at what rates. Further, we’re concerned that this implies that the board member cannot ask appropriate questions to protect the environment.
The curious matter of allowing a pre-existing non-conforming use to expand its activity and still meet the code should be corrected. This interpretation is certainly a change from past practices. The EHC encourages the planning board to consider asking the town board to clarify the East Hampton Town Code.
In conclusion, East Hampton Conservators asks that a positive declaration for the State Environmental Review Act is necessary to answer questions related to the clearing of pristine forests and the surprise relief from Harbor Protection Overlay requirements and the affects enumerated above on the environment.
The East Hampton Conservators has delivered a letter signed by David Doty, an officer of EHC, and dated August 31, 2010, to the East Hampton Town Planning Board stating its objection to the current application.