Farmland vista to be changed

Sagaponack Subdivision Public Hearing Monday

What is now farmland will soon be nine one-acre-plus buildable lots if subdivision is approved. Independent/T. E. McMorrow

A plan to subdivide and develop part of what is now more than 140 acres of contiguous farmland on the south side of Montauk Highway west of Town Line Road will be the subject of a public hearing at Sagaponack Village Hall on Monday, December 10, at 3 PM.

The property’s owner, Kenneth Schwenk, wants to create nine lots on the southeastern corner of his 41.3-acre property. In a proposal originally aired about 10 years ago before being revived this year, Schwenk wants to create a cul de sac, to be accessed from Montauk Highway by a 50-foot-wide private road. A 10th lot would be created along Montauk Highway, where there is currently a house, a barn, and a garage. Schwenk has indicated, over the course of several Sagaponack village meetings, dating back to March, that the newly created property facing Montauk Highway could eventually be sold and redeveloped.

Schwenk’s 41.3 acres is the only land in that large agricultural vista for which Southampton does not own either the development rights, or the land itself. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman was asked Friday if the property sounded like one the town might try to purchase with its Community Preservation Fund.

“We would definitely take a look,” Schneiderman said. “We are always interested in farmland.” However, he cautioned, “Sagaponack is one of the highest priced zip codes in the nation.”

Even at a high price, though, Schwenk told village officials earlier this year that he was not interested in going the CPF route.

Sagaponack Village Mayor Donald Louchheim, during ongoing, monthly trustee meetings and negotiations with Schwenk and his attorney, Alice Cooley of Matthews, Kirst, & Cooley, PLLC, was adamant from the beginning of the process that no trees or planting be placed along the private access road coming off of Montauk Highway, to protect the vista that will remain.

Schwenk also told the Sagaponack trustees that he has not farmed the land himself for over 15 years. Instead, it is farmed by Dean Foster, who owns the 88.3 acres of contiguous farmland to the west of Schwenk’s. Southampton Town owns the development rights to that land and also owns outright a long, narrow strip of farmland that runs south from the highway between Schwenk’s property and Town Line Road, which is the East Hampton border.

East Hampton Town was asked earlier this year to weigh in on the subdivision. The East Hampton Town Planning Board took the matter up in March of this year. “This is a big, if I can use the word, ugly subdivision of farmland,” said the board’s chairman, Job Potter, at the time.

In the end, in a response crafted by the East Hampton Town Planning Department, the town asked if the amount of land to be preserved could be increased from 65 percent to 80 percent, but Rich Warren, a planner for Sagaponack Village, told the trustees that Schwenk could obtain three more building lots.

t.e@indyeastend.com