Sagaponack Village and one of its largest landowners, the estate of the late Christian Wölffer, has reached an accord in a nearly two-year standoff over where the family could put four housing lots it wants to build on the fringe of the sprawling Wölffer Estate vineyard and horse farm.
After a presentation last month by a planning consultant hired by the village that seemed to indicate the houses would be visible on the landscape regardless of where they were placed, the Sagaponack Village Board, which also serves as the Planning Board, and representatives for the family reached a consensus that will allow the subdivision plans to move forward to more detailed review.
At issue for the last 22 months had been whether the four housing lots the family is entitled to develop on a vacant 12-acre parcel of land they own off Sagg Road would be clustered at the western or eastern end of the property. The family had lobbied to arrange them at the eastern end, where they would border the horse farm and rows of vineyard and would be separated from the property where Mr. Wölffer’s former wife, Naomi, lives.
A year ago, four of the five members of the Village Board had said they would prefer to see the lots clustered at the western end of the property, along Sagg Road and adjacent to Ms. Wölffer’s house, primarily because the western end of the sloping property sits lower than the eastern end, and they thought the houses would be less visible along Montauk Highway and Narrow Lane. The village also hoped to keep the open portion of the property contiguous to the existing agricultural use of the farm and vineyard.
But in a presentation at Village Hall on February 10, consultant Richard Warren told the board that while the visual impact of the houses being built on the eastern end of the lot would be somewhat more substantial than had originally been represented to the board, the visual impact of development at the western end of the property would be significant as well.
“Mr. Warren’s evaluation was that, overall, the visual impact would be less severe if the houses were located at the eastern side than down along the road frontage,” Mayor Donald Louchheim said. “The consensus was that if the board were to agree to the houses going along the eastern end of the property it would require some covenants that the agricultural frontage on Sagg Road would be in perpetual agricultural use, probably vineyards.”
Mr. Warren added that the open space fronting on Sagg Road would present a more meaningful benefit to the public.
“You are going to see the houses no matter where they are or where you are,” Mr. Warren said. “But locating the agricultural land on Sagg Road does preserve some continuity of the open space along the road. People should be able to see what is being preserved. Preserving land is something that does benefit the public.”
Mr. Warren also suggested that the board could ask the family to remove some of the larger trees growing along a hedgerow that rims the property, to expand the visibility of the open space.
The village officials agreed and told the Wölffers’ representative, architect Fred Stelle, that the family could proceed with an official application for the subdivision showing the lots at the eastern half of the property. The application still must go through both a preapplication phase, in which the applicant presents more detailed designs that show roadways and precise lot sizes, and then a final application. An official public hearing on the proposal will be held as part of the application process.
The Wölffer Estate comprises some 180 acres north of Montauk Highway. The family has already preserved more than 125 acres of their land through the sale or gift of development rights and easements.