East Hampton Town’s controversial plan to consolidate the town’s shellfish hatchery on Gann Road in Springs hit another snag this week.
Nearby residents of the proposed Springs location complain not only about the scope of the project but the town’s reluctance to undergo a thorough environmental review process and to face the scrutiny of local planning and zoning boards.
In response to an email from a constituent that was also sent to each town board member, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who is also a municipal attorney and has served East Hampton Town in that capacity, opined that because state grant money is involved, the town should voluntarily meet local zoning regulations.
“From my perspective, regardless of whether a municipal project is legally subject to zoning regulations, it is my opinion that such projects should be subject to the same planning and zoning process as anyone else,” Thiele wrote. “I have consistently held that position. Public projects should get the same scrutiny as private projects.”
Springs resident Elizabeth Robertson Laytin wrote in a letter: “I vehemently oppose any commercial/municipal/industrial usage of 36 Gann Road. This includes expansion of a shellfish hatchery. I am particularly alarmed that CPF funds that are supposed to be used for open space preservation are potentially going to be used to construct a building that will obstruct views and reduce open space,” she said, referring to the Community Preservation Fund, which is derived from a two-percent tax on most real estate sales.
At recent town board meetings, members have heard similar complaints about relocating the hatchery’s headquarters from its current location on Fort Pond Bay in Montauk.
Mark Mendelman, a marina owner, said the project would not be approved if it went through the same review channels required by a private citizen.
Thiele said October 7 that although the town has the final determination if state money is desired, “There is a lot of work to do. There has to be a much higher degree of public participation.”
“This is the same position I have taken,” said Jeff Bragman, a town board member and planning and zoning attorney. He has been the lone dissenter on the board up to this point.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc did not return phone calls or emails before deadline. His response will be noted in next week’s issue.
Ira Barocas, a vocal opponent who lives on Babe’s Lane, said, “All we ask is they go through the process.” He questioned the value of an extensive oyster-seeding program, which critics contend will disrupt other marine uses.
The current facility, on Fort Pond in Montauk, will be valuable as a rental property should the move to Gann Road be successful, Van Scoyoc has said.