In Amagansett CPF Purchase, Right Of First Refusal Is Waived A Second Time

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An Amagansett property owner whose right of first refusal has held up a purchase of his neighbor’s land for preservation will not defend himself in a lawsuit to clear a path for the deal.

The property owner, Richard Smolian, also signed off a second time on his right of first refusal, according to documents filed in Suffolk County State Supreme Court on behalf of the neighbor, Alexander Peters. An attorney for Mr. Peters recently filed a motion for summary judgment, which means the case could be resolved soon rather than go to trial.

“It is a significant development that he’s honoring his waiver,” said Mr. Peters’s attorney, Anthony Pasca of Esseks, Hefter and Angel, on Friday. Mr. Pasca said he expects a decision from Justice Thomas Whelan in the next month or two.

Anthony Tohill, the attorney for Mr. Smolian, said he had no authority to speak about the case. Members of the Smolian family have not returned past requests by phone and email for comment, and on Friday, Richard Smolian’s Amagansett phone was disconnected.

Mr. Peters is president of Amagansett Springs Aquifer Protection, which seeks to protect the Stony Hill aquifer that provides drinking water to thousands of residents of East Hampton Town. He planned to sell a three-lot, 7.2-acre tract in the former Bell Estate to the town, which voted unanimously last year to use $3.6 million in Community Preservation Fund money for the purchase, which was set to close last September.

Mr. Peters had bought two of the lots, totaling 3.5 acres and both on La Foret Lane, in 1992 from his neighbor Richard Smolian, who retained his right of first refusal specifically to prevent Mr. Peters from going on to sell the land for development. When the town purchase began to move forward, Mr. Smolian agreed to waive his right, but other members of his family refused to sign off on theirs, which Mr. Peters said had been added only in the event of Richard Smolian’s death.

According to the suit, in fact, Mr. Smolian’s son Jonathan additionally sought to exercise the right of first refusal to purchase the property for the same price the town was going to pay, which was a discount in the millions, and then go on to sell it at full-market price for development.

“Dick and I have been neighbors for a quarter of a century, he knows what I do is preserve land,” Mr. Peters said this week. “And his son is just off the grid.”

The suit maintains that Mr. Smolian’s family members do not share the right of first refusal, and that even if they did, they would have to match all the terms of the town purchase—including the obligation to preserve the land.

The town has been patient about waiting for a resolution, Mr. Pasca said. “As far as I know, no one’s said anything about walking away from the deal,” he said. “They’re doing the right thing, give credit where credit is due.”

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