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Nov 19, 2008 3:39 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

No decision to prosecute for apparent dune destruction

Nov 19, 2008 3:39 PM

Representatives of hedge fund billionaire Ronald Baron and the town met on Monday, November 24 on 
Mr. Baron’s oceanfront property off Further Lane in East Hampton, where a rare secondary dune appears to have been flattened to make way for a house.

Representatives of the Town Attorney’s office, the town Planning Department and Building Department toured Mr. Baron’s property on Monday to get a firsthand look at the area that was excavated without a permit and the retaining wall that was constructed in its place.

“We had a long meeting afterward and we still have a lot to consider,” Assistant Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said. “Our intention is to do what’s best for the town.”

It is not clear that Mr. Baron and his agents broke any regulations, Ms. Scarlato said last week. That’s why the town had made no decision to charge Mr. Baron with any violation of the town code, she said. The town attorney’s office has to be sure when it seeks to prosecute that it has a strong case that will hold up in court, she said, adding, “We’re operating under a high order of proof.”

Commenting on the assertion by Town Natural Resource Director Larry Penny that Mr. Baron and his agents had violated a requirement that they obtain a town Natural Resources permit for the work, Ms. Scarlato said, “It’s not as simple as that.” The only thing the code gives the town authority to regulate at the dune site, she said, was the removal of beach vegetation.

Mr. Penny’s department, she added, had no jurisdiction in the case. She also noted that the retaining wall and the dune that was leveled to make way for the house stretches across two properties owned by Mr. Baron, one in the town and one in East Hampton Village. She said the village’s regulations are different from the town’s and were apparently not violated by the work, which includes the installation of a hot tub and small waterfall along the edge of the retaining wall on the village side of the border.

“It’s the same exact thing, if not worse on that side,” she said. “But their rules are different and they’re okay with it, apparently.”

At some point, the town may issue a press release on the case after a determination is made on how to proceed because of the interest it has generated, she said.

Ms. Scarlato described Mr. Baron’s representatives as having been highly cooperative with the town.

PB and MW

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