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Barnes Landing Association

Helen Halsted

History of Barnes Landing:
Not Just Another Development

by Francine Whitney

Barnes Landing is one of many East End neighborhoods with an Association: Clearwater Beach, Kings Point, and Georgica are others to name a few. Each Association has its own perks and personality derived from its origin. To get a sense of what the original plans for Barnes Landing were, drive through the Bay Point Association off Long Beach Road in Sag Harbor. There, small lots with (once) small homes realize the vision of Helen Codling Halsted, a wealthy widow with a penchant for creating planned seaside communities.

In the early 1950s Helen Halsted decided to develop the land she had inherited from her father. She owned a number of parcels, and chose as her first project an outcropping of land in Sag Harbor Cove that she christened Bay Point. Lot size zoning did not exist then, and she created as many lots as she could in order to maximize development. A boat ramp and a community stairs provided water access to the residents. The success of Bay Point inspired Halsted to start a more ambitious project with a parcel of Gardiner's Bay land she owned that stretched from Barnes Hole Road to Louse Point and bordered by SpringsĀ­ Amagansett Road (now Old Stone Highway).

The Town of East Hampton zoning board had already approved small building lots for the new Barnes Landing subdivision by the time local residents heard about the development plans. A total of 400 new residents was expected to populate the new neighborhood, and immediate concern came up for the "over-exploitation" of the land and water. Halsted's vision included a marina/beach restaurant with "dance floor, lounge rooms and bath house" at Accobonac Harbor, a boardwalk along Barnes Landing beach, and even a row of shops along the unpaved path that she christened "Quality Row." Proposed shops included an ice cream parlor, a liquor store, a beauty parlor and a nursery school/day care center where "parents can have their small children taught during the day and be kept overnight, so that they can take off for New York, or go on a fishing trip." Fortunately, Halsted's vision did not come to pass.

The Barnes Landing Association was incorporated in March, 1958 in order to work with and serve as a counter-balance to Mrs. Halsted's plans. The new Association developed by-laws that would create a neighborhood that fit in better with the existing natural habitat. Building sites, according to the rules of the new Association, must be comprised of either two or three zoned lots. A parking lot for Association residents would be built at the beach so that other locals could still park at the beach. Other building restrictions - such as setbacks, land usage and approval of building plans - predate simiar East Hampton Town zoning by decades. Ultimately, the rules established by Helen Halsted and the Association regarding building design and use, lot size, no signage, etc. have helped Barnes Landing maintain an air of spaciousness, non-commercialism and quiet. Upon Halsted's death, all of her rights and control over the development were inherited by the Association, giving Barnes Landing the unique ability among associations to control its own neighborhood's look and feel.

Today, a number of families residing in Barnes Landing are descendantsĀ·of the original property owners and residents. They know firsthand - as newcomers quickly learn - that Barnes Landing is a special place thanks to the foresight and persistence of neighbors who did not want to be part of just another "Association."

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