Community values on housing and land preservation in East Hampton clashed when the town board voted to buy an environmentally sensitive property in a hamlet officials say is the most intensely developed in town.
The vote Thursday was whether the town should buy 7 acres on Copeces Lane in Springs for $850,000 -- a purchase to be made with town community preservation funds raised through a special mortgage transfer tax. Thus, the town tax rate would be unaffected.
The town has spent tens of millions of dollars to preserve land since the fund was created in 1998, and the Springs site owned by Li-Lin Gee is already in East Hampton's Special Groundwater Protection District.
Town officials say Springs, where many homes were built on quarter-acre lots, is already overdeveloped compared to the rest of the town, and needs to have its remaining open space preserved.
But East Hampton also has a citizens advisory committee on housing, which has warned that the high real estate prices in the town make it difficult, if not impossible, for young families to buy their own homes.
And that created a dilemma for town councilwoman Theresa Quigley. "There comes a point where our acquisition of property comes in conflict with the citizens advisory committee," she said at the Thursday night town board meeting, adding that every relatively inexpensive parcel purchased by the town and saved from development means one less parcel for affordable housing.
But, she noted, there is another issue. "The character of Springs requires it to be less dense," she said.
In the end, the town board voted 4-0 to purchase the undeveloped property at 50 and 48 Copeces Lane. Quigley abstained.