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East Hampton to spend $1.8M to prevent car wash

The site of the vacant Star Room nightclub

The site of the vacant Star Room nightclub will become a public park instead of a car wash. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The East Hampton Town Board has agreed to spend $1.8 million to buy the site of a vacant nightclub, in part to prevent the area from being developed into a car wash, officials said.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the 1.2-acre property is “a gateway to the Wainscott business district” and will be turned into a public park.

“We felt the property should not be developed,” Cantwell said Wednesday. “That section of Montauk Highway is the most traveled section anywhere in the Town of East Hampton. Obviously, a car wash development there would’ve been even more of a traffic issue.”

James Golden, who proposed the car wash at 378 Montauk Hwy. about two years ago, said he was not included in town discussions on the purchase. His deal to buy the property, which belongs to the estate of Isha Kaushik, would not have gone through unless town officials approved the car wash.

Golden said he decided to drop the venture after the town planning board ruled in April that he had to conduct an environmental study that would have cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“They didn’t give me a fair shake,” Golden said. “It was doomed from the start.”

Residents had spoken out against the controversial proposal at town board and planning board meetings, citing concerns about potential traffic increases and the car wash’s negative effects on nearby water bodies. The proposal prompted the town board to enact a one-year building moratorium in the Wainscott business district in November 2016.

Scott Wilson, the town’s director of land acquisition and management, said his department began looking into buying the property in 2015. Officials will need to remove the vacant Star Room nightclub building to get the site “back to its natural state,” he said.

The nonprofit Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation contributed an additional $300,000 to the $2.1-million deal for the property, which is in foreclosure.

The purchase will be paid for with the Community Preservation Fund, which is used to preserve open space and is generated from a 2 percent tax on real estate transfers in the towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southold.

Residents reiterated their concerns about the impacts of a car wash at a meeting on Oct. 5, when the town board voted to buy the site.

“This is a really good move on your part, and thank you for listening to us,” said Wainscott resident Carol Slater.

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