The hamlet study process, now years in the making, had another go-round at Town Hall during the East Hampton Town Board work session on February 19. As they have at recent town board meetings, almost a dozen Montauk residents spoke, with most expressing concern, asking the board to “take a pause” as one speaker, Bonnie Brady, said, before finalizing the study concerning Montauk.
Brady has previously expressed concern that the voices of Montauk residents were not being given enough weight in the process.
The studies, which focused mainly on the business districts in Springs, Amagansett, East Hampton, Wainscott, and Montauk, are not for immediate action, Lisa Liquori, a consultant with the firm Dodson & Flinker, who has been shepherding the study process, told the room. Rather, she said, they are a look at the direction the town would like to take over the coming decades. It would be added to the town’s comprehensive plan, which has not been updated in many years.
Still, most of the Montauk residents who spoke were clearly ill-at-ease with some of the objectives put forth in the study. The objective that raised the most eyebrows, it seemed, was the plan to slowly retreat, over the years, from the Atlantic Ocean, relocating motels further north.
Steven Kalimnios, one of the owners of the Royal Atlantic, which was built many years ago where a dune once stood, called for an economic study of the plan, and the idea of moving the motels. “A complete study has not been done,” he said.
Priscilla Dunne told the board that she has been the general manager of Motel Blue since 2011. She said that last year, for the first in her memory, rooms went unrented. She said that there was agreement among motel owners that business was down last year a full three percent. The problem, she said, is that not enough focus has been placed on saving and strengthening the beaches. “No beach, no Montauk,” she said.
Ed Braun, chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said he would like to participate in a committee dedicated to preserving downtown Montauk, where the group has its office.
Laraine Creegan, executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, called the retreat strategy an “extreme” plan. “People’s jobs and quality of life are all at stake,” she said.
Sylvia Overby, vice supervisor of the town board, said after the public spoke, “All of the comments we heard today, all of the comments we have heard in the past, all of those are part of the plan.”
For the next few hours, Liquori reviewed each comment, either spoken, or written, that the board has received over the past few years, reinforcing the idea that, whether in support or against the study, all views would be included in the final draft.
Councilman David Lys noted that that one of the speakers had stated that property owners would be having their land “taken from them.” He said, “I don’t see the word ‘taken’ in the hamlet studies.”
Overby agreed, saying there was no plan of using eminent domain to force owners to retreat.