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Southampton Town Board Approves $24 Million Plan to Widen Beaches In Eastern Half Of Town

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Michael Wright   Nov 27, 2012 8:12 PM
Nov 28, 2012 11:23 AM

The Southampton Town Board unanimously approved a $24 million beach renourishment project for the ocean beaches of Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack on Tuesday night.

The project, which had earlier this year been shelved by town lawmakers until next spring, was revived and fast-tracked following the damage to homes and beaches during Hurricane Sandy.

With the project approved by the town, it will now be scheduled for a public referendum sometime early next year. The Suffolk County Board of Elections will be responsible for scheduling the vote, which state law dictates must take place between 60 and 75 days from Tuesday night’s approval—most likely some time in early March. Only the residents of the two special taxing districts—125 property owners in all—or their representatives will be eligible to cast votes.

The town also announced on Tuesday that the leaders of the group of homeowners who have spearheaded the planning and proposal of the project have agreed to have the private property owners absorb about $1.5 million of the town’s portion of the total project. The town was initially to pay approximately $3 million of the total cost, for the five public beaches the town owns in the project area. The town will still have to pay about $1.5 million, but that money will be taken from special reserved park district funds and will not have any tax impact on town residents. As a result, the project will not have a direct tax impact on town taxpayers, other than those residents of the taxing districts.

Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi said on Tuesday evening that making the project tax-neutral for the town was an important step in moving the project forward with the Town Board. “I think that was a critical component of this, to have no impact on town residents’ taxes,” he said after the vote. “It’s a good project.”

With the portion picked up from the town, the project, which will pump more than 2.5 million tons of sand onto the ocean beaches between Flying Point Beach in Water Mill and Townline Road in Sagaponack, will cost the homeowners of the two taxing districts nearly $26 million in total. If the project is approved at the ballot box, the money will be borrowed by the town and paid back over 10 years through a special tax levy only on the oceanfront properties. Those residents will pay between a few thousand dollars and more than $200,000 per year, depending on the amount of oceanfront on each property.

The town approved the project with the understanding that legislation introduced by state lawmakers eventually will allow town officials to exempt two properties from paying the tax—those owned by the White family in Sagaponack and by the Bridgehampton Club—because they have conservation easements over their oceanfront land.

On Tuesday night, supporters of the project affirmed the urgency of broadening the beaches—by 60 to 80 feet, according to the project’s specifications—in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction.

“The greater the width of the beach, the better protection you have—that became plainly evident after Sandy,” said Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea. “Those areas where we had wide beaches are where you saw the least impacts and damage to houses.”

Working on the assumption of broad support among the residents of the taxing districts, the project’s proponents now will start working on the timing of the actual work. State and federal restrictions on dredging the ocean floor, where the sand for the new beachhead will be drawn from, normally limit such work along the oceanfront to the dead of winter. But some advocates have said it may be possible to receive exemptions if proper environmental safety protocols are put in place, such as monitoring the movement of federally protected piping plovers in the area where the beach construction is taking place.

Escaping the time limits could allow the project to go ahead as early as next summer, so that the new beachhead could be in place should another hurricane or early-season nor’easter strike the area next year.

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Hurricane (ironically named) Sandy proved that this effort is 100% foolish. The sea will take what it pleases and no amount of sand nor dunes will stop it. There are homes that were on Fire Island 200 feet from the ocean at high tide and protected by a 25' high fully vegetated dune which are no completely destroyed. Look at the aerial images your self (google sandy crisis map - look up Davis Park, NY).

This is an utter waste of $$ and while it is good to hear that the homeowners are ...more
By Nature (2257), Hampton Bays on Nov 27, 12 8:33 PM
the flip side of your argument is how much more taxes would we all have to pay if the beach and the homes that sit near it do go away. It would not take too many to reduce the tax rolls by $1.5 mm of present value. I think that this is a good deal for everyone in the town who does not have to pay this special tax, and I hope the property owners vote to fund it.
By jcobb (2), watermill on Nov 28, 12 1:25 PM
I see what you are saying, but the Town taxpayers should not be tasked with funding renourishment projects that SOLELY benefit private property owners. Guess what happens when you add sand to the beach? You move the high tide line further away from the homes and therefore INCREASE the size of these private properties. You are NOT increasing PUBLIC lands - only PRIVATE lands.

As for the arguement that the Town makes that it helps protect our TOWN beaches - guess what, there will always ...more
By Nature (2257), Hampton Bays on Nov 28, 12 2:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
I suppose that we do get to vote in that we elect the town board that approved the 1.5mm that the town is spending. We can hold them accountable at the next election if we think that they have been unwise with our tax dollars. The property holders who are agreeing to fund the other $22.5 million need to have a special vote as this amount is split by only 125 owners ($180,000 per) as opposed to the 35,000 properties that finance the 1.5mm. ($42 per unit). Polling this group should be very easy ...more
By jcobb (2), watermill on Nov 28, 12 2:57 PM
Let's hope by them paying, they don't take control of the beach BELOW the high tide mark
Total waste. They are not interested in saving the beach, just their houses.
By clamdigger (38), Quogue on Nov 27, 12 9:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
Is there a bigger form of arrogance than building on sand within sight of the ocean?
By The Gipper (11), Sag Harbor on Nov 28, 12 4:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
Just remove the jetties in wainscott and much of this problem would resolve itself . Make the homeowners pay for 100% of the rest of the costs.

Just a hunch, but I believe the dunes and beach would be stronger if they didn't build hotel sized houses in the middle of them.

By C Law (282), Water Mill on Nov 28, 12 6:17 AM
The only issue I see is that there will most likely be a storm in the next ten years, the life of the bond, that will take some of sand out to sea. So do they borrow for another ten years after each replenishment project?
By North Sea Citizen (308), North Sea on Nov 28, 12 7:05 AM
Hubris will complete its natural replenishment of human folly.

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle !!!
By Nero (148), Sag Harbor on Nov 28, 12 7:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
SHT should follow Quogue's lead and just scrape 2 feet of sand off the beach to rebuild the dunes every time there is a storm or erosion. It works for them right?

Although the Politicos say non-oceanfront residents are not paying - how does $1.5M of designated park money get spent shoring up rich folks oceanfront homes? I'd rather see it spent on public areas that are accessible to everyone.
By G (182), Southampton on Nov 28, 12 8:00 AM
I can think of 24 million reasons this is a huge waste of our money! You know ithe sand is eventually going to be washed back into the sea. We have to stop doing foolish things like this. I will bet that the contractor who gets this job has connections in very high places. And the homeowners who will only benefit from this also have some powerful gov't friends who pushed this through.Quack!
By SisBoomBonacker (78), Hamptons on Nov 28, 12 10:48 AM
2 members liked this comment
first - its not "your money" - it will be financed principally by a special tax on the oceanfront homeowners.

second- assuming it is a feasible project from an engineering standpoint - everyone benefits by preserving larger public beaches.

opposition is one thing, being completely uninformed is another.

By tm (151), mtk on Nov 28, 12 1:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
This dandy little scheme was designed to please the oceanfront homeowners who support certain board members with plump donations and hold fundraisers for them at their clubs. The way this sand replenishment program was set up FEMA will have to pay to replenish the sand each time it washes away. Guess who pays for it then? Us, through our Federal taxes.

National newspapers and magazines have been running articles since Sandy by experts who all agree that our seas are rising, more large storms ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Nov 28, 12 12:36 PM
2 members liked this comment
If the national experts give to local congressmen, then they can play locally too. Fair is fair.
By V.Tomanoku (577), southampton on Nov 28, 12 1:43 PM
Related - the Atlantic Ocean has announced plans to undo the beach renourishment project free of charge at anytime it sees fit.
By double standard (1147), Remsenburg on Nov 28, 12 1:28 PM
Absolutely agree with D.S. All one has to do is fly along beach at say 1000' then look out at the Atlantic and marvel that one can not see where it ends. Then look down at the scrawny little stretch of beach along Dune Road. Mother Nature and the Atlantic will take it whenever they please regardless of the pathetic attempts to hold them off by our politicians.
By Tennyson (69), Quogue on Dec 3, 12 3:02 PM
To all those that think the beach front owners should foot the bill...YOU ARE RIGHT! The problem is that the governement and environmentalist will not let them. If the property owners would be allowed to protect their homes the way they see fit..it would cost the taxpayers nothing and a better job would get done. Unfortunately the powers that be think they know what's best. They should just stay out of it...
By The Real World (148), southampton on Nov 28, 12 2:00 PM
"The problem is that the governement and environmentalist will not let them"

Not true - MANY of these homeowners conduct their own dune reconstruction projects every winter/spring. Perhaps it's your belief that these homeowners should literally do whatever they want to protect their homes, then you're wrong. You think it's OK for homeowners to dump cars/install metal bulkheads/sheathing and pile cesspool rings in front of their home? What happens when the beach gets eroded and now those ...more
By Nature (2257), Hampton Bays on Nov 28, 12 2:25 PM
This part makes no sense:

"The town approved the project with the understanding that legislation introduced by state lawmakers eventually will allow town officials to exempt two properties from paying the tax—those owned by the White family in Sagaponack and by the Bridgehampton Club—because they have conservation easements over their oceanfront land."

Why are these properties exempted? What does it matter that they have conservation easements? They are still getting ...more
By Nature (2257), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 12 10:36 AM
If this idea were put up to a vote of ALL the residents, not 1 in 4 would approve it, but that has never been the primary demographic to which the Town Council answers.

The unanimity of the vote manifests that Council members, regardless of party affiliation, have so embedded their noses that they can't see their constituents.
By highhatsize (1891), East Quogue on Nov 30, 12 1:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
of course, its easy to vote in favor of a tax on someone else. thats why it has no busienss being a town wide vote, but only a vote amongst the people who are affected.
By tm (151), mtk on Dec 3, 12 12:31 PM
of course, its easy to vote in favor of a tax on someone else. thats why it has no busienss being a town wide vote, but only a vote amongst the people who are affected.
By tm (151), mtk on Dec 3, 12 12:31 PM
We are affected. It's $1.5 million of OUR money - PLUS the cost is being BONDED by the Town which means we are technically on the hook. It's a tax on me and you just as it's a tax on the ocean front home owners.
By Nature (2257), Hampton Bays on Dec 3, 12 12:51 PM
When the sand is gone in 2 years will the property owners continue paying or will they start litigation against the town? You can't stop mother nature don't listen to the experts here are hundreds of beach nourishment cases that have failed all along the east coast.
By chief1 (1107), southampton on Dec 5, 12 9:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
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