The East Hampton Town Board has approved a one-year moratorium on commercial development along and adjacent to Montauk Highway in Wainscott.
During the moratorium, there will be no new approvals by the town planning board for commercial projects in the hamlet’s commercial district. The move is designed to give the town a chance to consider the findings of a townwide hamlet study by consultants and Wainscott residents. They have indicated they want the hamlet to slowly transform from stores sprawled along the highway into a more traditional and walkable downtown business area.
Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said Monday that the moratorium will go into effect once the local law has been filed with the secretary of state.
“That usually takes 2-4 weeks,” she said.
The moratorium was approved Thursday night. The hamlet study is expected to be finished in a year and will include recommendations on how the hamlet’s business area should be developed in the future.
Study participants have found that the traffic in the Wainscott business area presents unique problems. The exceptionally high traffic volumes on Montauk Highway impact neighboring residential neighborhoods to the north and south as motorists seek alternate routes through residential districts to avoid gridlock.
“Many of these residential streets are not designed for high volumes of traffic, and when used as bypasses place pedestrians in danger,” according to the moratorium resolution. ”Development of properties along the highway corridor may exacerbate the situation.”
In a town board work session last Tuesday, Councilman Fred Overton expressed concern that the bid for a moratorium was a veiled attempt to prevent a business that is being proposed from being built.
“I hope the rest of the Wainscott community isn’t going to be affected because of one application for a car wash,” Overton said.
But Burke-Gonzalez assured him that was not the case.
“The impetus for this was what happened with HomeGoods,” Burke-Gonzalez said. When the housewares retail store was built in Wainscott in 2014, changes to the town code were made after residents objected to the look of such a large chain store located just feet from traffic lanes. “[Wainscott residents] don’t want to see that happen again. They don’t want to see another site be developed and then say ‘Oops, we got that wrong.’ ”