Southampton Town officials are looking to renegotiate an agreement with a Water Mill property owner after community members spoke out against the deal, claiming it essentially turned public land into the gated driveway of a Hamptons estate.
In February, the five-member Southampton Town Trustees — a governing body separate from the town board and entrusted as the stewards of some public lands — reached a 15-year agreement with financier and Rose Hill Road property owner Randy Frankel to dredge a boat ramp leading to Mecox Bay and maintain the nearby parking area.
In exchange, Frankel, who is a minority owner of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team and owns Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, was allowed to encroach on a portion of the .61-acre Trustee-owned parcel. He had privet and arborvitae landscaping plants installed to shield a portion of it from public access and built a circular driveway for his bayfront home, according to a copy of the agreement.
The work has narrowed the entrance road to the boat ramp from 100 feet to about 16 feet. A grassy area commonly used for picnics has been removed, and residents said it will be harder to fit multiple trucks with boat trailers on the property.
“The primary duties of the trustees is to preserve and protect properties like this,” said Fred Havemeyer, a former trustee who has spoken publicly against the deal. “It’s fundamentally so wrong it’s a crime.”
Critics of the deal packed Town Hall on Monday for the rare trustee meeting held in the evening to discuss the issue. Town officials said the maintenance was intended to keep the boat ramp usable for the public while saving taxpayer money.
A handful of trustee supporters spoke in favor of the deal, noting that the entrance had become clogged easily.
“If the guy improves the ramp and makes it really good? I don’t care, let it happen,” said commercial bayman Jamie Hummel.
Records show Frankel bought the 2.3-acre property in 2015 for $29.5 million. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who attended Monday’s meeting and spoke at the podium, indicated that Frankel was willing to work with the town on a compromise. Frankel could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Trustee president Ed Warner Jr. said no public hearing was held on the issue because the board did not think the proposal was controversial.
“When you get things wrong on the East End, they let you know,” Warner said.