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Jan 26, 2015 2:08 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Mollie Zweig's Rock Revetment At Issue In East Hampton Village (Again)

Jan 27, 2015 11:08 AM

The East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals ruled Friday, for a second time, that a rock revetment at philanthropist Mollie Zweig’s home on West End Road will not have an adverse impact on the nearby shoreline—the latest development in a long-standing dispute over beach jurisdiction.

The ZBA’s unanimous decision echoes a ruling the board first issued in 2013. The East Hampton Town Trustees, who hold jurisdiction over the beach in the town and village, are refuting both determinations by the board and alleging that the process for issuing those decisions was not followed properly, and that a public hearing is required.

Ms. Zweig first received approval in 2013 for her revetment, said ZBA Chairman Frank Newbold. It was classified as a Type II action, in accordance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA. Type II actions generally do not have “significant adverse impacts on the environment,” according to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website. A public hearing was held on the application.

After the ZBA issued a negative SEQRA declaration—indicating the revetment would not cause environmental harm to the area—the Trustees filed a lawsuit challenging the ZBA’s approval. In November, the State Supreme Court issued a decision upholding the ZBA’s original determination, but required the board to classify the application as a Type I, or “unlisted action,” in accordance with SEQRA. Type I is essentially the opposite of a Type II action and is generally “more likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment.”

The second approval last week came without another public hearing being held. “No public hearing is necessary on the new SEQRA determination, as it is being done at the direction of the court,” said Mr. Newbold. “There are no implications for Mollie Zweig, as the original determination permitting her revetment has been upheld.”

But the discrepancy is an issue to the Trustees, said the board’s attorney, Brian Matthews, who explained that the initial public hearing for the application was noticed as a Type II action. Since it has since been changed to an unlisted action, the ZBA is in violation and an additional public hearing should be held before the board votes, he maintains.

“It requires more review now,” Mr. Matthews said during Friday’s meeting. “And to issue a [negative declaration] in five minutes—that doesn’t meet the court’s instructions ‘to do a proper review,’ which includes [holding] a proper public hearing. And based on the court’s findings, that hasn’t been done.”

Trustee Clerk Diane McNally said the miscommunication seems to be evidence of a “procedural glitch” between the ZBA and the Trustees. She said she wishes her board was routinely made aware of applications under consideration by the ZBA prior to decisions being made. The issue isn’t specific to Ms. Zweig’s application, she said.

“I’m not trying to criticize, but I’m not getting notices for applications that deal with the beach,” she said Monday morning. “The issue of jurisdiction is a conundrum here in East Hampton, and it’s been this way for my whole tenure. It’s situations like this where you’re reminded that there’s a problem.”

East Hampton Village Clerk Pam Bennett said during the meeting that each application is noticed weeks before appearing on the ZBA’s agenda, and neighbors within 300 feet of the property at hand are notified.

As for the legal proceedings regarding Ms. Zweig’s rock revetment, Ms. McNally said she is unsure and unable to comment on what the Trustees’ legal strategy will be going forward, but is hopeful the situation will prompt more communication between the Trustees and the ZBA.

“There’s a lot of confusion about the boundaries and who owns what,” she said. “I just ask that—let’s slow down and make sure we have it right, together.”

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