The East Hampton Town Board adopted a one-year development moratorium this week for the Montauk Highway corridor in Wainscott.
The moratorium applies to all commercially zoned properties in the hamlet business district and the smattering of properties in residential zones along the highway that are currently occupied by grandfathered commercial uses.
Freezing the planning approval process for the hamlet’s business district is intended to halt changes at commercial properties until consultants working on long-term planning studies of the town’s five hamlet business districts can complete their recommendations for zoning changes. The consultants met with residents of Wainscott for three days last spring, during which time residents made it clear they want Wainscott to gradually transform from the current highway-side strip mall arrangement into a more classic walkable “downtown” business district.
Councilman Fred Overton said he was concerned that some may look to extend the moratorium beyond a year if the planning studies or the board’s enactment of their recommendations take longer than planned. It should be the board’s responsibility to ensure that is not an issue, he said.
Mr. Overton also worried that the moratorium may have been driven by anger over a proposal for a car wash in the hamlet currently before the Planning Board. He said that while the car wash proposal was a bad one for the chosen site, it was inappropriate for a hamletwide moratorium to be enacted to stop it. Other board members sought to dispel that idea.
“The impetus for this was what happened with Home Goods,” Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said, referring to the housewares retail store built in Wainscott in 2014 that sparked outrage among residents and code changes by the town because of the towering hulk and blank facade of the building sitting just feet from traffic lanes. “[Wainscott residents] don’t want to see that happen again. They don’t want to see another site be developed and then say, ‘Oops, we got that wrong.’”