Not an Easter ham

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She saw East Hampton grow up. Literally. Yes, Deb Foster has a unique perspective of East Hampton. I congratulate The Press for adding her to its staff [“Planning DFepartment abolished,” The Story Behind the Story, April 9].

Generations of children benefited from her attention and enthusiasm during her 34 years as a teacher at the Springs School. She saw them grow up. Before she retired, she was teaching the children of students she had taught earlier.

During her 15 years on the East Hampton Town Planning Board, she saw East Hampton grow, not grow up—just grow—and worked hard to engineer intelligent growth. In the eight years she served as Planning Board chairman, she ran crisp, no-nonsense meetings carefully balancing the future of East Hampton with the rights of the individual.

I attended many of those late night sessions and always left feeling how lucky we are to have such dedicated and competent individuals working hard for all of us for token payment. That tradition characterizes our Planning Board today. Much has been preserved for us to enjoy, cherish, and protect for the future.

And then she capped her career of service to East Hampton as a four-year member of the Town Board, altogether a unique perspective for her observations of East Hampton today.

In her April 9 column, she brings us to a truly momentous event in East Hampton’s history: abolishing of the Planning Department in the early ’80s by a developer-controlled Town Board. The department, all professionals, provides the expertise the appointed Planning Board, ZBA and other decision makers need to guide development of the town consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan.

Without the Planning Department, the town could be sliced up like an Easter ham—to use Deb’s colorful expression—for the financial benefit of developers and speculators. In fact, it had already begun in the ’80s when an aroused citizenry rose up to fight it, sued the town, raising and spending some $100,000 from mostly small contributions.

They won. The rogue Town Board was voted out of office. East Hampton was saved, as many said, and at the last moment. Once land has been developed it can’t be undeveloped.

If I may, I would like to correct two errors in Deb Foster’s April 9 column, neither affecting the thrust of her account. The ad hoc organization that saved the town was called the Citizens Planning Committee. Somehow, in the course of her handwritten column finding its way into print, it came out Community Planning Committee. Also, in mentioning three key organizers of that ad hoc group, she referred to one as an ex-Marine. Actually he was a World War Two Army combat veteran.

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