Dredging and swimming and Tide Runners are on the minds of our elected leaders and the people who talk to them this week. Summer nostalgia is in the air.
East Hampton is now considering the more extensive of two option for dredging the inlet to Lake Montauk proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers, after neighbors to the west of the inlet asked the town board to consider a more thorough solution to the erosion there at Tuesday’s work session.
The board needed to decide by Sept. 20 whether to go forward with one of two scenarios: The first would be to dredge the inlet to 17 feet deep, with a 50-foot-wide “deposition basin” alongside the channel where sand would fill in before filling in the channel. The second “enhanced navigational proposal” would dredge the inlet to 17 feet with a 100-foot-wide deposition basin and the removal of a sand fillet in Block Island Sound outside the inlet. It would also include the construction of between one and three groins to keep sand from the dredging, deposited on the beach to the west of the inlet, from moving.
Town Environmental Analyst Brian Frank told the town board on Sept. 3 that the more extensive project would likely be budgeted for 2015. East Hampton’s share of the cost of the more extensive project could be as much as $1.8 million of the $41 million project, though the town is exploring partnering with New York State for its share.
The board had initially been hesitant to pursue the more extensive option due to ongoing litigation with homeowners to the west of the inlet and concerns that the federal government had stipulated there must be public access to any beach they help create to the west of the inlet.
At their Sept. 3 meeting, board members wanted to know if they could fall back to the less extensive option if the more extensive one didn’t work out. Mr. Frank said this week that they can.
Frank DeVito, one of 13 homeowners involved in the litigation, told the board his neighborhood is trying to solve the erosion problems there and thanked the board for their help.
Larry Wagonberg, vice president of Culloden Shores Property Owners Association, which is not involved in the lawsuit, said he thought an engineered beach would help the situation.
Southampton held its fifth hearing on its sustainability plan Tuesday afternoon, and the comments from the public seem to be winding down. The board could approve the plan as soon as Oct. 10. But public concern is just coming to a head over a new plan for a Marine Planned Development District, which would contain a hotel and 40 town houses on three parcels on both sides of the Shinnecock Canal on the sites of the former Canoe Place Inn and the current Tide Runners restaurant.
Thomas Mulvaney of Hampton Bays told the town board he hopes there is a cost analysis of the sustainability plan and said he’s concerned that it will lead to more “density” in town, which basically means more people.
“The urbanization of Southampton is taking place,” he said. “There’s not really good control.”
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming told him that all of the recommendations in the plan that are implemented will come before the board again individually for votes and public hearings as necessary.
“Nothing in the sustainability plan is automatically generated,” she said.
Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said she hopes the town has a report from the Suffolk County Planning Commission and the the town’s own planning department on file. Long range planner Janice Scherer said the town has those documents and plans to put them on the website.
The public hearing was adjourned until Oct. 10.
“We’ll see how it goes,” said Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst when asked if a motion to approve the plan will be adopted that night.
The board also heard more than an hour of testimony from developers and neighbors of the Tide Runners and Canoe Place Inn properties, many of whom were concerned that there would be a sewage plant on site. Developers said the small-scale Nitrex sewage treatment system would be primarily in the ground, with a 300-square-foot laboratory to test the effluent, which is required by the health department.
Consultants for developers Rechler Equity Partners met with neighbors, who have begun circulating petitions that have garnered a total of more than two thousand signatures, at the Hampton Bays Diner last week. One petition, which as of Tuesday had 1,236 signatures, is to save Tide Runners. Another petition circulated by Hampton Bays resident Tom Owens, which has 808 signatures, is against the planned development district.
Dale Nickle of Old Canoe Place Road, told the town board that he was opposed to the plan, which was expected to generate $17 million in property tax revenue over the next 10 years, because it will force people who live there to give up their recreational access to the canal and because of the sewage.
“Porting any sewage from one community to another is wrong and politically incorrect,” he said, though the consultants said the sewage would be treated on-site.
“It’s transferring access to public waterways from the many to the few,” he said. “The first time I ate at Tide Runners, I came by boat and it was as gracious as a gondola ride in Venice.”
Ann Potter of New York City said the loss of Tide Runners would deprive people of being able to teach their children about good times.
Bonnie Doyle said her primary concern is the health of the waters, and said she thinks the hotel should have the same state-of-the-art sewage treatment system as the townhouses across the canal.
Board members reminded the public that the Rechlers can build on the land they own as of right.
“None of us have made up our minds here,” said Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “We’re going to continue to take your comments to see if there are ways to slice and dice this project. But these properties are now in private ownership. This is not going to change that. We also have to consider what happens if this project is not approved, what comes next. Is it better or worse?”
The board also unanimously approved a new five-year intermunicipal agreement to provide police service for the Village of Sagaponack, which has been considering forming its own police force.
Fans of Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic are confused as to why there are suddenly “No Swimming” signs at the soundfront beach there.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell told attendees at Tuesday’s meeting that the town’s risk management consultants urged them to place the strongly worded signs there to reduce the town’s liability insurance costs.
“We’re not trying to be bad guys. It’s our obligation to decrease liability,” said Mr. Russell. “We’re trying to protect residents of the town.”
Tom Skabry, who works for the town and grew up in Peconic, urged the board to post a lifeguard at the beach.
Robert Dunn, who lives near Goldsmith Inlet, said he recently reprimanded neighbors who were swimming at the beach for breaking the law.
“I swam there for 40 years. We all know people swim down there,” said Mr. Scabry. “There’s a moving current, but that just requires another [lifeguard] certification level.”
Mr. Russell said the town would also be required by the county health department to provide restrooms if lifeguards are posted there.
Mr. Scabry said the town could put Porta Potties at the beach.
Southold also approved a $3.5 million bond to repair the aging highway department headquarters on Peconic Lane, which would include a new metal building to serve as the equipment service area and a pole barn. Board members also agreed to lease a Nissan Leaf electric car to deliver Meals-on-Wheels for the town’s senior services department.