East enders stopping by the Sagg Main Store for their morning coffee have been surprised recently to find their sleepy summer oasis a hotbed of political activism. Organizers of the Sagaponack Association for Village Incorporation (savi) have been gathering signatures in front of the store for a proposal to transform the land between Bridgehampton and Wainscott into a village with a mayor and zoning board of its very own.
After inching along for more than twenty years, the issue of home rule raced on to the fast track when a Southampton town board, which governs the hamlet of Sagaponack, approved the infamous 110,000-square-foot Rennert compound last January. “The town of Southampton is not as interested in this area as it should be,” says savi’s Ana Daniel. “They are quite interested in putting it all under concrete as fast as possible.”
Lest anyone think pure mansion envy is their motivation, residents have plenty of non-Rennert-related gripes, like beach parking – often six cars deep on front yards – and careening Porsches en route to East Hampton hot spots. “I am entirely for the village. Entirely!” says Robert Dash, who lives a few houses down from the Sagg Main Store. “I want everyone checked for hoof-and-mouth disease. I want speed bumps every ten feet!”
Just last month, another set of blueprints had savi members worked into a lather: Ronald Lauder wanted to donate a parcel of endangered Sagaponack open space to Itzhak Perlman for a music school. The proposal, like Rennert’s house, would require a special permit. “It’s wonderful that Itzhak Perlman wants to teach kids music,” says savi president Clay Dilworth. “But what happens after Itzhak Perlman? He’s not going to live forever. What happens when they need money and rent it out for rock groups?” William Fleming, the lawyer for the Perlman project, counters, “It’s sad. Sagaponack could be synonymous with a music school, but I guess they like trophy homes better.”
“This isn’t necessarily an adversarial act,” argues Daniel. “It’s about bringing government closer to the people. It’s actually a very American thing to do.”