Amagansett 555 And Senior Housing Overlay Public Hearings Fall Flat

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It was an anti-climactic public hearing for Putnam Amagansett on Thursday at East Hampton Town Hall.

After months of contentious debate about the developer’s desire to build a 79-unit luxury housing complex for seniors at 555 Montauk Highway in Amagansett and for the town to create a new senior housing district to make that possible, the continued discussion fell flat.

The creation of a senior housing overlay district was deemed not necessary by two town residents who spoke up.

“The average salary of our seniors in town is under $50,000,” said former town councilwoman and Planning Board chairwoman Debra Foster. “You are displacing two important assets we treasure in East Hampton.”

To get rid of another affordable housing opportunity by proposing luxury housing for seniors would be going against the Town Comprehensive Plan, she continued.

Brian Byrnes, the resident supervisor at the St. Michael’s affordable senior housing complex in Amagansett, added that there needs to be more affordable housing to keep up with the demand. Currently there are seven affordable housing complexes in East Hampton Town.

Windmill Village has 150 people on its waiting list and St. Michael’s currently has 130 on its list, Mr. Byrnes said.

“The turnover rate is about three to four people a year—when apartments become available,” he said. He added that to house all those on the waiting list, seven more complexes with 40 apartments each would need to be built.

“A lot of our wonderful local people who are in that golden age never had a 401K and did things occupationally that they oftentimes lived day to day, season to season.” Mr. Byrnes said.

Ms. Foster told Town Board members that the land has to be remembered too.

“We seem to have forgotten this is prime farmland,” she said. “At some point we’re going to need that prime farmland. It’s got some of the best soils in New York State.”

Once the public had its say about the senior housing overlay district, the public hearing for the zone change to allow the developer to build the condos was opened and closed in a matter of minutes. According to attorney Richard Whalen, who represents Putnam Amagansett, the applicant asked to adjourn the hearing. Knowing that, the Town Board decided to close the hearing instead.

No votes were taken on either proposal.

In the fall, members of the then newly elected Town Board, who hadn’t taken their seats yet, publicly expressed their opposition to the rezoning in a letter to the Suffolk County Planning Commission. Then Supervisor-elect Larry Cantwell also spoke up at the first public hearing in December, saying he didn’t see how 555 would serve any of the town’s goals.

Britton Bistrian, a land use consultant working with the applicant, said the property owners are not making public statements about what their next step will be.

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