A much-postponed decision on “Today” host Matt Lauer’s controversial proposal to plant dozens of trees and shrubs at his Water Mill horse farm has been postponed again.
Thursday’s Southampton Town planning board meeting’s agenda reported that members were to “consider a decision” but they put it off until Feb. 11 after the height and types of trees to be planted became an issue.
Lauer, who attended Thursday’s hearing, in the summer submitted a proposal to plant 42 trees and nearly 200 shrubs on his 40-acre Bright Side Farm to prevent horses from being “spooked” on a trail by noises and activities around the swimming pool of his neighbors, Jack and Jodi Wasserman.
But the Wassermans said the trees would obstruct their view of Lauer’s “bucolic” farm and violate restrictions on the property. In December, Lauer submitted a revised proposal to try to address the neighbors’ concerns.
The new plan called for the trees to be spaced in such a way that the Wassermans could still view the farm, but an agreement could not be reached Thursday between Lauer’s attorneys and town officials on what species of tree, and what size, would work best and maintain the Wasserman’s desired views.
Lauer’s original plan was to plant the 42 trees ranging from 6 feet to 18 feet tall and 194 shrubs along the north boundary of his farm, with most being placed along the perimeter of the Wassermans’ Farrell Court property.
Southampton Town Planner Claire Vail on Thursday recommended to the board that some of the trees be Red Cedar “Juniperus virginiana” evergreens that would reach a maximum height of six feet.
But one of Lauer’s attorneys, Timothy S. McCulley of Southampton, told the board members that the trees would not be tall enough.
“The six feet does not accomplish what we set out to accomplish,” McCulley said. “When you get to six feet you’re not shielding the horse’s eyes at all.”
Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty asked, “Have you given any thought to the relocation of this [horse] trail?”
McCulley said that could not be done because of “big grading issues” on the property. He said he would work to come up with another solution for the trees by Feb. 11, adding the hope was the issue could be resolved by planting season.
Lauer declined to comment when leaving the Town Hall meeting room other than to say, “Nothing has happened yet.”
Martin Finnegan, an attorney for the Wassermans, said in a statement that Jack Wasserman, who attended the session, “was encouraged” that the planning board recognized the tree-planting proposal would obstruct the view.
“Mr. Wasserman is hopeful that any revised plan submitted by the Lauers will abide by the recorded covenant and restriction against any plantings that would obstruct the Wassermans’ and the public’s views of the Farm,” Martin said in his emailed statement.