East Hampton's town board voted last week to give up on the idea of selling the Fort Pond House in Montauk and, instead, decided to turn it into a park.
But it did not make that call at its Thursday night town board meeting. Instead, the board took the town-owned property off the market at a work session Tuesday in Montauk, and did not publicly advertise its vote ahead of time.
Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who supported the action, said the board had been assured by its town attorney that the move was legal. But on Thursday night, she agreed it probably would have looked better -- and been more appropriate -- to approve the new decision not to sell the property at the regular town board meeting two days later.
Fort Pond House became a symbol of the strife between the town board's Democrats -- Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc -- and outgoing Republican Supervisor Bill Wilkinson over the way East Hampton is being run, now that the town has dealt with its financial crisis.
Van Scoyoc sees the house and, more importantly, its 4-acre site -- one of two town-owned access points to Fort Pond -- as an important public resource.
Wilkinson, outnumbered 3-2 when the board took its vote, took some satisfaction in how long he was able to hold on to his plan that the town must sell off some assets to deal with the debt that accumulated because of mismanagement before he took office.
"It took them four tries," he said of the finally successful vote.
Councilman Dominick Stanzione, a Republican, joined the two Democrats -- as he has several times this year -- as a swing vote against Wilkinson and fellow Republican Theresa Quigley, who supported the sale proposal.
Wilkinson said after the meeting that he did not single out the Fort Pond House as a town property to be sold, but had initially asked town employees three years ago to review which assets could be sold -- parks, for example, are protected by state law and cannot be offered for sale -- and the Fort Pond House made the top of list.
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