Map of archaeological hot spots on hold

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The Town Board last year dropped a $125,000 project to create a detailed map of archaeological hot spots in East Hampton because of the budget deficit. The map was supposed to simplify the architectural review process, in part by allowing the board to quickly determine what properties needed archaeological review before any development took place.

In August 2007, the Town Board hired Jo Ann McLean Archaeological Consultants to create a map that would help municipal planners determine more accurately than the current statewide map allows, exact locations where a more in-depth archaeological survey of a specific parcel would be necessary before they could be developed.

Town Councilwoman Julia Prince had just joined the board a year ago when she slowly began to realize that the town was in dire financial straits, she said last week. As the liaison to the Planning Department, she told the board that she thought the archaeology project should be put on hold, considering how much much it cost.

It should not be carried out “until we’re back in the black,” she said she told the board. “All these archaeological artifacts have been there,” she said, “and I think they’re going to be there for another year or two.”

Town Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn says there is a great need for the map—not only to streamline the process of determining which properties need to be surveyed, but also to get recommendations on how to create a museum, so that the artifacts that are unearthed can be used for local education.

Ms. Wolffsohn said the Planning Department could do a much better job, archaeologically speaking, if it had the more detailed local map. The map of archaeologically sensitive areas it uses now, provided by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, doesn’t really help. “It’s way too broad,” she said. Almost all of Montauk, for example, is marked as sensitive, so anyone who applies for a Natural Resources special permit on virgin land in Montauk is required to provide a stage one archaeological survey.

“We need a refined map so we can look at the areas where there is really valuable stuff,” she said. “Applicants have been asking for this for years.”

As it stands now, all artifacts and discoveries are sent to Albany, she said, or circulated among academic publications. For lack of education, many people—especially property owners who have to alter their building plans, if they can build at all­—see what’s found as just a pile of rocks, she added.

-Carolyn Kormann

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