A group of Wainscott residents has filed a petition to incorporate the hamlet as a village, a move they say will bring greater local control over development but critics contend would create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
The Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott submitted a petition signed by more than 200 residents, or nearly one-third of registered voters, to East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc on Dec. 30.
Under state law, Van Scoyoc can accept or reject the petition and, if accepted, then schedule a vote on creating the 4.4-square mile village. The petition needs to be signed by 20% of voters to be valid. Van Scoyoc could not be reached for comment.
"Wainscott is a beautiful community, and the passion to protect and preserve it is just another reason why it is so special," Gouri Edlich, the group’s chairwoman said in a news release. "We call on Supervisor Van Scoyoc to call the election as soon as possible."
If approved by voters, Wainscott would be the first Long Island village created since Mastic Beach incorporated in 2010. Mastic Beach dissolved in 2017 amid a projected tax spike, political infighting and federal discrimination lawsuits. Residents in East Quogue voted against incorporation in 2019.
Opposition to the off-shore Orsted wind farm cable proposed to run under a town-owned Wainscott beach is seen as a motivating force for incorporation.
East Hampton Town last month said it had reached a tentative agreement with Orsted to land the cable at Beach Lane in exchange for $28.9 million in community benefits. The group said incorporation could prevent that from happening.
But a group of opposing residents said during a recent virtual interview with Newsday that the village would likely face a legal battle from the wind farm developer, that the new village boundaries would exclude some residents from using the town beach and it would be difficult to find residents to sit on land use review boards.
"This is a private group of individuals who are very well funded, very wealthy," said Doreen Niggles of Wainscott. "And they do not have the interests of the residents of Wainscott at heart. They have their private interests at heart."
Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott has hired lawyers with the Mineola-based firm Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan, two consulting firms and a public relations firm to help with its cause. It has not publicly disclosed all its supporters.
The group projects a $838,628 annual budget with residents paying a median $340 more in taxes per year, according to a presentation provided by the group. The budget calls for spending approximately $130,000 on expected legal fees, a number the opposing residents believe will be much higher.
The proposed budget would include a village board, planning, zoning and ordinance departments, beach management, employee benefits and other expenses. It would contract with the town for services, such as police and highway maintenance.
"The strong response to the petition sends a clear message that the people of Wainscott support creation of a new village," Edlich said.