Mile of Fencing, Ton of Complaints

Without it, deer will ‘wreak havoc’ on farm; neighbors say Nimby

A Sagaponack resident’s application to install eight-foot-tall deer fencing along the perimeter of a nearly 34-acre agricultural reserve elicited vehement opposition from the reserve’s neighbors at a village board meeting on Monday. The village’s code pertaining to deer fencing, which is currently under review, permits it on farms, but not residential properties, which has led to a lively debate about who qualifies as a farmer. 

Kimberly Lippmann, the applicant, said her efforts to operate a working farm at 129 Parsonage Lane have been so thwarted by deer that she is forced to install a mile’s length of fencing at an estimated cost of $58,000. “I have four kids between the ages of 13 and 3. I think it’s important for my family and our extended family to participate in farming the land,” she said.

In addition to cultivating fruit trees and raising goats on the property, she has leased some of the land to Peter Dankowski, a local farmer who is growing corn, potatoes, and oats, and who confirmed that fencing was a necessity. The deer, he said, “wreak a lot of havoc.” 

To encompass the reserve, the fencing would abut the properties of 10 neighbors, several of whom voiced concerns about the impact it would have on their views and the market value of their houses. “Who’s going to mitigate the real estate devaluation of people who live next door?” asked Paul Brennan, who lives across the street from Ms. Lippmann’s property. “There are residual effects that this is going to have.” 

Mr. Brennan, a real estate broker, subsequently wrote a letter to Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim requesting a six-month moratorium on the installation of deer fencing. “Please give us all an opportunity to find solutions that are viable for all residents,” he wrote.

One alternative to eight-foot deer fencing was presented at the meeting by Charlie Marder, the owner of the Marders nursery and landscaping business in Bridgehampton, which developed a curved fence four feet in height and extending outward by four feet. “We call it, affectionately and modestly, the Marders cantilever fence,” said Mr. Marder. “We’ve used it to make residential code deer fencing. It’s been very effective. It intimidates the deer to the point where they really don’t want to fool with it.”

Ruth Raisman, who lives next to Ms. Lippmann’s land, was enthusiastic about the Marders invention. “This is a fencing system that has been discussed among the neighbors and it is something that we would like to try,” she said. “We are really interested in preserving the vistas that Sagaponack was built upon.”

Ms. Lippmann was more skeptical about the curved fence, pointing out that vegetation under its overhang would grow into a four-foot hedge barrier that would require ongoing maintenance. “I’ve applied for an eight-foot fence because I think it’s necessary to exclude the deer. Am I willing to be flexible? Yes, but I don’t want to put up a massively expensive fence and then wind up fighting people again when I come back here next year saying it’s not working, the field is full of deer.”

Mayor Louchheim echoed some of her concerns, calling the cantilever fence “just as much if not more of a sight barrier than an eight-foot mesh fence.” Speaking of the proposed new law pertaining to deer fencing, he said that one of its key components would require that the applicant be a “bona fide farmer.”

Ms. Lippmann’s neighbors questioned whether she fit that description. “Farmers who farm for subsistence and that’s their livelihood, you can’t take that livelihood away,” said Mr. Brennan. “I don’t think that this is the case here. These are not people who are farming to live by their farm, that is not how they make their money.”

Ms. Lippmann’s husband, Greg, is a hedge fund manager who was featured in “The Big Short,” Michael Lewis’s book about the financial crisis triggered by subprime mortgages. He was played by Ryan Gosling in the book’s film adaptation. Mr. Lippmann has become such a prominent Wall Street figure that a reporter from The New York Post traveled to Sagaponack on Monday to cover the meeting. A story headed “Hedgie Couple Has Hamptons Neighbors Fuming Over Proposed Fence” appeared on the paper’s website later that day. 

In response to Mr. Brennan’s assertion that farming was not her main occupation, Ms. Lippmann said, “This will be a livelihood for people who farm this property, so I don’t think it’s right to look at what I have and conclude that just because I own the property, that it’s not a livelihood for someone.”

“I think she wants to do the right thing for the land, and she’s very ser­ious about farming,” said Richard Schoninger, a neighbor who is supportive of Ms. Lippmann’s proposal. “Her chickens and the guinea hens come on my property all the time, I love it. That’s why you live in Sagaponack and you don’t live in East Hampton. It’s about farming.”

When asked whether he considered her a bona fide farmer, Mr. Dankowski said, “No, but she’s trying.” 

The board adjourned the application without resolution.