The Southampton Town Trustees on Monday defended a restaurant owner’s latest proposal to expand the marina adjacent to his East Quogue business after several community members voiced their disapproval of the project, which could be signed off by the board early next month.
Town Trustees Fred Havemeyer, Ed Warner Jr. and President Jon Semlear all defended the latest application filed by Larry Hoffman, the owner of Dockers Waterside Marina and Restaurant located at 94 Dune Road. The three explained that they had closely examined the application, which calls for the addition of nine permanent slips and seven transient slips, and do not think the project will harm the environment. Trustee Eric Shultz was on vacation this week and Trustee Brian Tymann has recused himself from the public hearing on the application.
“We’ve been doing our homework in trying to get the best possible plan for the environment,” Mr. Warner said during Monday’s meeting.
The current proposal has been scaled back substantially from the original plan, which called for the installation of a 56-slip marina and a fueling station, and the dredging of a canal from Shinnecock Bay to the Dune Road restaurant. The latest plan also includes several stipulations imposed by the Trustees, including the prohibition of dredging and overnight sleeping on the boats utilizing the slips, as well as restricting the size of boats that can dock at the marina to 25 feet or less.
The Trustees also explained that the project would not cause any more environmental harm than the current boat traffic that comes to and from the waterfront restaurant. “The reality is [that] boats are going in and out of there now,” Mr. Semlear said.
East Quogue civic leaders Al Algieri and Joan Hughes, as well as Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, attended Monday’s meeting to voice their reservations about the plan. The proposal has been a highly contentious issue amongst the Town Trustees, community residents and Southampton-based attorney John Bennett, who is representing Mr. Hoffman, as it was first proposed more than four years ago.
Mr. Bennett has previously criticized some residents for objecting to the project without substantive reason. During Mr. Algieri’s testimony on Monday, Mr. Bennett accused the civic leader of trying to delay the project for personal motives.
“He’s like a terrorist,” Mr. Bennett said, referring to Mr. Algieri.
After Mr. Algieri assured Mr. Bennett that he was not a terrorist, Mr. Semlear asked those in attendance to refrain from making inflammatory remarks. Mr. Bennett then apologized to Mr. Algieri.
Though they had originally indicated that they were ready to sign off on the application on September 3, the Town Trustees agreed to keep the public hearing open for comment for an additional 20 days at the request of Mary Jean Green, the vice president of the Hampton Bays Civic Association. The comment period expires this Tuesday, September 23.
A final decision is expected to be made during the next Town Trustee meeting, scheduled for Monday, October 6, at 1 p.m.
One of the main hurdles that Mr. Hoffman had to clear before asking for approval was proving that his proposed marina would not result in the closing of local waters to shellfishing. Those closures typically occur following heavy storms, when stormwater runoff results in high levels of bacteria in the water. The Trustees and Mr. Bennett have both maintained that Charles Hamilton, the former regional manager of natural resources for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, told them that shellfishing closures can be avoided if Mr. Hoffman adheres to the stipulations now included in the application.
Mr. Algieri, who is the president of the East Quogue Civic Association, approached the Trustees to ask why their file on the Dockers application does not contain a letter from the DEC confirming Mr. Hamilton’s observations.
In response, Mr. Semlear explained that there was no way to get a letter from Mr. Hamilton, noting that he no longer serves in the position. Mr. Semlear maintained that Mr. Hamilton’s verbal consent was sufficient. “There are many conversations that are not documented,” Mr. Semlear noted.
Mr. Algieri added that there was a letter in the file from Lisa Tettlebach, a biologist with the DEC, that noted that the current plan would necessitate a shellfishing closure because the marina could accommodate more than 10 boats. Mr. Semlear explained that the letter also listed the stipulations that would minimize the probability of a shellfishing closure, modifications that Mr. Hoffman has already agreed to follow.
Mr. Algieri then asked why the Trustees could not provide a letter from the DEC stating that the application would never result in a shellfishing closure. Mr. Semlear said the state could not grant that request due to liability issues. “[Ms. Tettlebach’s] supervisor is not going to sign off on something that says there can never be a shellfish closure,” Mr. Semlear said.