The second in a series of five public hearings on studies concerning the long-term future of the hamlets that make up the Town of East Hampton was held Thursday, October 18. Though East Hampton was the titular focus of the hearing, several Springs residents expressed their concerns over the future of Springs-Fireplace Road and the corridor leading to Springs.
East Hampton hamlet covers a wide area. According to the study, which is available online, East Hampton hamlet “is defined as the East Hampton School District — which encompasses 13,973 acres including the population centers of Northwest Harbor and East Hampton.” It is the largest of the five hamlets, and also includes North Main Street, and the area north of the point where North Main Street forks into Three Mile Harbor and Springs-Fireplace Roads, all the way north to Abrahams Path.
That fork in the road was one problem a couple of speakers said needed attention. Judy Freeman told the board she uses Three Mile Harbor Road to travel back and forth to Springs, and said that one-mile backups were not unusual north of Oakview Highway during the summer season. David Buda said the intersection must be addressed. Currently, even off-season, drivers headed south on Springs-Fireplace Road have to yield to traffic in both directions on Three Mile Harbor Road, leading to backups. Buda said that a proposed traffic circle at the intersection could provide relief.
Carl Irace, speaking for the approximately 350 members of Citizens to Preserve the East End, said that a full traffic study needs to be done encompassing the entire area from Three Mile Harbor Road all the way east to Accabonac Road, and north to Abrahams Path. It is particularly important to study both sides of Springs-Fireplace Road, he said. While Springs-Fireplace Road is going to be resurfaced next year, it is not and should not be widened, Irace said. He said the town should explore buying undeveloped lots on Springs-Fireplace Road, such as the lot between the entrance and exit roads to the recycling center. A proposal to build a car wash on the approximately one-acre site received a somewhat frosty reception when the East Hampton Town Planning Board took up the matter in June.
Irace also addressed an issue that several speakers touched on: the sand mine on Springs-Fireplace Road. The mine, which, according to both Irace and the study, will likely be exhausted in about 10 years, should not be the site of any “unplanned development” in the meantime. Irace said that the Mariner Drive commercial development in Southampton would serve as a good model for the town.
Katie Casey, speaking not in her role as head of the East Hampton Housing Authority, but rather as a member of the East Hampton/Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee, said traffic studies will need to be made after the Long Island Rail Road completes its ongoing project to raise trestles in East Hampton. Trucks have repeatedly struck the trestles when the drivers ignore the low-ceiling warnings. Once the trestles are raised, traffic flow will likely change, with more trucks using the street. She cautioned against converting Collins Avenue into a one-way street. “This area is already overburdened, and it’s about to get worse,” she said of North Main Street.
Casey also addressed the part of the study that deals with Pantigo Road and the businesses on it. She disagreed with the idea of transforming the property at 231 Pantigo into a parking lot, and encouraged a redesign of the intersection of Pantigo and Skimhampton Roads.
Paul Fiondella questioned the study’s approach to the Pantigo Road area. “The recommendations in this report should be set aside as premature,” he said. He called for a new study to be done after the proposed medical facility on Pantigo Place, in whatever form it takes, is built. Fiondella also made an impassioned plea, not just for affordable housing, but for assisted living for the town’s growing elderly population. “If you are in one of the existing affordable housing facilities and you can’t take care of yourself, there is nothing here,” he said. “You’ve got 5300 people over the age of 65, 24 percent of the town, and we have nothing.”
The next hamlet study up for public comment, on November 1, at Town Hall at 6:30 PM, is Amagansett.