It seems as if the petition calling for a permissive referendum on the sale of an alleyway behind The Montauk Beach House (formerly "The Ronjo") has garnered enough signatures to move forward. The East Hampton Press is reporting that, "Members of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee will file a 46-page petition with 630 signatures at the Town Clerk's Office" some time today. They are calling on the board to either repeal the $35,000 sale or put it to a public vote.
At issue is the lack of appraisal on the 20' foot alley. Split along party lines, town Republicans think the $35K price set by Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson is reasonable while Town Democrats feel it's far too low (in a statement they said that Clark and Marshall Appraisers deemed the value was more than five times that). It doesn't help that Mr. Wilkinson said he "plucked the number out of thin air", a comment which has been echoed by many opposing the sale.
Stuck in the middle of all this fighting are the owners, Chris Jones and Larry Siedlick. The duo offered the following statement in response to the political brouhaha:
"As town residents we have always believed that Montauk is a very special place. It always was, and continues to be, our intention that the Ronjo property would be revitalized as The Montauk Beach House (TMBH) in keeping with the very special nature of Montauk. TMBH will be a resort property that we believe will be viewed positively by our community. Sadly we did not anticipate the current political controversy over a sliver of land that for over 50 years was utilized by the previous owners of the property. We have no desire to be involved in controversy and regret the fact that this very positive project is now embroiled in what seems to be a political dispute over which we have no control. We hope the issue is resolved in a fair and equitable manner that benefits the long term interests of our community. Our team is working very hard to complete the renovations so that The Montauk Beach House will be open for the 2012 summer season."The also provided us with an appraisal (available for download here) they had done on the property last week. Stephen H. Schuster, an appraiser out of Sag Harbor, determined the value of the land to be $22.5K. We'll make sure to keep you updated as the story develops over the coming weeks.