A month before it is expected to be reviewed, an application for a private membership club at Montauk’s former East Deck Motel has received a chilly reception from some residents and surfers.
In just one week, the Ditch Plains Association, a Montauk community group, gathered nearly 2,000 petition signatures to protest the planned oceanfront club. The petition is addressed to the East Hampton Town Planning Board, the Town Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
In addition, a group of surfers will protest by holding a paddle-out at Ditch Plains Beach on Saturday at 10 a.m.
What concerns opponents of the beach club is the potential for disruption in the environment and character of Ditch Plains, they have said.
The motel’s new owners, ED40 LLC, whose principals are Lars Svanberg and Scott Bradley, according to ED40’s publicist, submitted an application to the Planning Board in July to re-purpose the motel into a private 179-member beach club called the East Deck, Montauk.
In addition to a new 8,000-square-foot swimming pool, hot tub, showers, restaurant, spa and exercise room, ED40 plans to add a gate house, 64 more parking spaces and decking on the 4-acre parcel. To upgrade the grounds further, a new septic system would be built to handle a daily occupancy of 537 people and waste totaling approximately 5,000 gallons. About 14 feet of fill is planned to be brought in to raise the system above the flood zone.
According to Laura Michaels, a Ditch Plains resident and member of the Ditch Plains Association, the impact the new East Deck would have on the area is unprecedented.
“The change to the character of the neighborhood would be unspeakable, as would the increased environmental risks,” she said in an email this week. “The scale, scope and intensification of property use of this large commercial project located in a severe FEMA Flood Zone, within a residential community, and contiguous to one of the most famous recreational beaches on the East Coast, raises very serious environmental concerns and promises to dramatically change the character of the community.”
The Ditch Plains Association, a 375-member group initially formed in 2013 to focus on beach erosion and neighborhood-specific issues, argues in its petition on Change.org that the plan fails to meet East Hampton Town Code special permit and New York State DEC approval standards and doesn’t comply with the town’s comprehensive plan.
In a nutshell, the association believes the club will increase traffic and affect the surface and groundwater that runs into Lake Montauk and to Ditch Plains Beach. Additionally, there is concern about access to the beach in front of East Deck, since, according to a survey submitted by ED40, the property line extends approximately 30 to 60 feet seaward of the dune the new owners reconstructed this past spring.
“We are not at all surprised at the level of opposition,” Ms. Michaels said about the number of signatures on the petition. “The East Deck and Ditch Plains Beach are iconic locations, but more than that, they encompass a large community of homeowners, surfers, family beachgoers and surfcasters that consider Ditch Plains unique and special.”
When news spread about Mr. Bradley’s and Mr. Svanberg’s plans, much of the surfing community took offense. Surfers took to the internet, on Facebook and through email, to round up a group to show their displeasure.
According to Ditch Plains surfer and resident John Chimples, the paddle-out is typically done in memory of someone or something lost.
“There’s danger of something really being lost at Ditch Plains if the club is developed to the extent that the plans suggest,” Mr. Chimples said. “People feel betrayed and don’t really know what to do about it. I think this is just something they can do. The talk at the beach is, ‘What can we do?’”
Mr. Bradley did not return a call for comment before the Press deadline, but Reed Jones, the chairman of the Planning Board, said that the application, when it is heard this fall, will go through the review process like any other one.
“I think a lot of people are really concerned, but I assure you, and whoever else is concerned, that there will be no short cuts on this application,” he said. “It’s going to have to go through the full SEQRA process and the same process that every other application has to go through. It’s really that simple.”
The application will have its initial review in September, but Mr. Jones said it would be best if people spoke during the public hearing, which will be set at a later date.
Since the applicants haven’t stated their case yet, Mr. Jones was unable to comment on the proposal but said he expects the public hearing to be “a lively one.”