Critics Oppose Proposed Land Deal

The East Hampton Town Board has once again come under fire for a proposal that would have the town abandon a portion of an unopened road to a private landowner in Amagansett in exchange for a trail easement over the land.

David Buda of Springs, speaking at a September 20 hearing, said the proposal, requested by the property owner Galaxy Group Investments, LLC, “would result in a substantial increase in the development of the property.” He added that he had previously raised serious legal concerns about the propriety of the arrangement.

At an earlier hearing on the matter in August, Buda told the board the property owner wants to move a house to the property, and acquiring the additional three-quarters of an acre would make that possible under current zoning.

Buda repeated that he had uncovered records that the town highway superintendent had accepted that portion of Cross Highway into the town highway system back in 1914, making it illegal for the town to abandon ownership of what is today a trail.

Furthermore, he told the board he had discovered the owner’s attorneys had miscalculated the amount of land for development that would be available after the transfer.

He urged the board to discuss the matter with its attorneys, adding, “So far, the only attorneys that have been participating in this have been of
the applicants.”

Galaxy is represented by the Riverhead law firm Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Durban & Quartararo, LLP. Christopher Kelley, one of the partners in the firm, has long been a major player in the local Democratic Party. When a fissure developed in the party leadership earlier this year, some of Kelley’s rivals questioned whether the town board was either asleep at the switch or doing Kelley’s firm a favor by failing to fully examine the Galaxy request.

Those concerns were echoed by David Gruber of East Hampton, who has been a leader of the Reform Democrats. He praised Buda for looking after the public’s interest and criticized the board for not being transparent.

“Somebody has worked awfully hard in order to create a misrepresentation to the public that it is the town receiving something when, in fact, the town is giving something,” he said.

Because Galaxy’s law firm has close political ties to town government, he said the town board was obligated to review the application “to the highest possible legal standard.”

Karen Hoeg, an attorney representing Galaxy, told the board the miscalculations in lot coverage allowances had been corrected and a new survey submitted with the application. She differed with Buda’s assessment of whether the road was public or not, saying the property owner’s title company had found no record that the town owned the trail.

The board did not discuss the matter, but closed the hearing.

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