Town To Buy Controversial Montauk Property?

T. E. McMorrow
This property on Fort Pond has been the subject of litigation in recent years.

A Montauk property with a history of controversy will be the subject of a public hearing at East Hampton Town Hall September 19. The town is proposing to buy the property — a narrow strip of land covering 1.26 acres along the eastern shore of Fort Pond — using community preservation funds, for $1.03 million. The address of the property is 85 South Edgemere Street.

The land is owned by Noelle and Thomas Twiggs. For years, they have been applying for permits to develop the site. Given its location on Fort Pond, the development they’re proposing faced opposition from a neighbor to the immediate south, Laura Michaels, as well as the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, on environmental grounds. The property is in a harbor protection overlay district, and any development would have to be approved with a special permit from the town.

In January 2012, the property’s previous owner obtained a permit from the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals for a 2437-square-foot residence, a 410-square-foot carport, 1195 square feet of decking, a sanitary system, and a driveway. That is when, according to court documents, the Twiggs bought the property.

They, in turn, came back to the ZBA asking for a permit for a similar structure with some modifications, which the board granted. Michaels and her attorney, Christopher Kelley of Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo LLP, took the town to court.

At that point, the town’s building department determined that, with the modifications requested, besides needing a permit, the Twiggs had to obtain area variances from the ZBA. The building permit was revoked. The Twiggs applied for the variances needed, and after a contentious hearing in 2013, that application was denied.

However, the permit approved by the ZBA in January 2012 still stood. Michaels sought to have that reversed as well, in New York State Supreme Court. In October 2014, Justice Joseph Farneti ruled against Michaels, making way for a new building permit, which was issued in July 2016.

The property was cleared for the designated construction footprint, but nothing further was done.

Building permits are good for one year after they are issued by the town. In 2017, and again in 2018, the Twiggs obtained a one-year extension of time for their permit. Still, nothing happened. Recently, the construction envelope on the property was again cleared. However, so much time had passed since the original building permit was issued that the Twiggs needed to reapply to the county and state for permits regarding the energy efficiency of the house and the septic system.

On August 14, a stop work order was issued by the East Hampton Town Building Department. Ann Glennon, the head of the department, explained last week that it would not issue a renewal of the building permit without the new state and county permits being in place.

The property was listed on the Sotheby’s website at $1.25 million. Now, the town has stepped in to protect fragile Fort Pond and its wetlands. For slightly more than $1 million, the long strip of land sitting on Fort Pond will remain in its original state, save for the clearing that has already been done, should the resolution pass.

The focus over the past couple of years has been over the clearing and potential development of the Twiggs’ property. The two properties to the north, 95 and 101 South Edgemere, are owned by David Rowe, according to town records. The lots appear to have been aggressively cleared and landscaped. According to Glennon, no permits for the work done were ever issued by her department. Those two properties share a house which is accessed via 101 South Edgemere.

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