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Feb 17, 2016 11:19 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trustees Ready To Hand Over Beach Permit Duties To Villages

The Southampton Town Trustees will hold a public hearing to discuss changing the language of 4x4 beach access, omitting incorporated villages, after losing their right to regulate ocean facing beaches within villages. GREG WEHNER
Feb 17, 2016 11:19 AM

A group dedicated to preserving the public’s access to Southampton Town’s beaches is encouraging its members to attend next week’s public hearing planned by the Town Trustees, at which possible changes to the municipality’s beach driving rules will be discussed—including the idea of giving incorporated villages responsibility for their own 4x4 access permits.

In a Facebook posting made earlier this month, the leaders of the Southampton Association for Beach Access, or SABA, asked members to attend the meeting, now scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24, at Town Hall. A snowstorm forced the postponement of the meeting, originally slated for February 8.

In their posting, organization leaders said they need all of their members, as well as their family and friends, to attend to show their collective support for the Town Trustees who, in recent weeks, have been handed damaging back-to-back court losses that have eroded their authority within incorporated villages.

As part of their message, SABA leaders stated that the Town Board needs to get behind the Town Trustees and assist them in their ongoing efforts to get Albany to pass legislation that reaffirms and strengthens their duties.

“They like to do that, they like to rile people up,” Trustee Scott Horowitz said of SABA. “It’s good that the community comes to support the Trustees in a town that’s unique like Southampton.”

John Kosciusko, the president of SABA, said the purpose of the posting was not to incite his members. Rather, he said it strives to encourage them to stay informed about potential issues that could threaten their access to the town’s beaches. He noted that some members, pointing to the recent court losses for the Town Trustees, incorrectly believe that they have already lost some of their rights. At the same time, Mr. Kosciusko said there are no guarantees that will not happen eventually unless changes are made—starting with the introduction of state legislation that seeks to clarify the specific responsibilities and jurisdiction of the Town Trustees.

One of those rulings, handed down by the state’s highest court last month, prohibits the Town Trustees from appealing an earlier decision stripping them of their ability to regulate erosion control devices along oceanfront beaches within incorporated villages. That ruling prompted some village officials—West Hampton Dune Mayor Gary Vegliante in particular—to suggest that it also means that the Trustees lack the authority to issue 4x4 permits, as they have traditionally done, for village beaches.

The Trustees are now proposing handing over that responsibility to the incorporated villages. At the same time, they plan to add language that reinforces their right to regulate driving on ocean beaches in the unincorporated parts of the town.

“We thought we had the right to police the beaches, but we don’t have the policing power,” Trustee Eric Shultz said this week.

The modified rules, if adopted next week, would ban four-wheel-drive vehicles on ocean beaches in unincorporated areas of the town between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. starting the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and continuing through September 15. While the times will remain the same, the rule will now omit village beaches.

Those proposed changes, namely the decision to leave it to the villages to oversee activities on their beaches, are of concern to Mr. Kosciusko and members of his organization.

“Who’s to say Gary [Vegliante] and his board won’t start charging $500 for beach access?” he said. Presently, it costs $20 for residents to secure a 4x4 permit from Southampton Town.

“Who’s to say that the villages can’t do that?” Mr. Vegliante replied. “I don’t endorse that, though. We aren’t looking at it for a revenue service.”

While West Hampton Dunes Village reserves the right to issue its own permits, Mr. Vegliante said, he and others will first explore their options over the next few months.

Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius said this week that instead of issuing new village permits, Quogue simply can continue to require that its residents have town-issued beach permits to access village beaches. In fact, that is how the village code is currently written, he said.

Mr. Shultz said his board’s inability to regulate activities within incorporated villages is a loss shared by all residents of Southampton Town. That is why he thinks the Town Trustees need to meet with State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. so Albany can clarify outdated language in the doctrine that gives the board its authority, the 330-year-old Dongan Patent. “There has to be a meeting with [Fred] Thiele and the Town Board,” he added.

To date, Mr. Horowitz is the only member of the five-person board to meet with Mr. Thiele. Trustee President Ed Warner Jr. said he was scheduled to sit down with the state lawmaker yesterday, Wednesday, February 17, before having Mr. Thiele meet with the entire board in a future executive session.

“I personally met with Assemblyman Thiele and expressed that as well,” Mr. Horowitz said of the need to clarify the roles of the Town Trustees through updated legislation. “The future of the Trustees and the town depends on it, in my opinion.”

Mr. Kosciusko agrees, saying such action is needed to ensure that he and his children, as well as others who enjoy the town’s beaches, continue to have unabated access.

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" they like to do that, they like to rile people up." Whiskey tango foxtrot is up with that Scott??!! THEY?? Nice to see your opinion of the voters and residents of this Town.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 17, 16 12:08 PM
Try to re-read the story and put that comment in perspective. He was crediting the SABA board for their ability to fire up those who should be in the know on what is going on here.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Feb 17, 16 1:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Indeed, the second part of the quote is, "“It’s good that the community comes to support the Trustees in a town that’s unique like Southampton.”

Why read the entire paragraph when one can read one clause, then post first and think later?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 17, 16 1:36 PM
2 members liked this comment
We all know Big fresh is Bill Pell or one of his friends - And anyone that follows Bill knows he does not like Scott and trys to start as much trouble as he can.
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Feb 17, 16 1:55 PM
Show up or they will give up the ship...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Feb 17, 16 3:56 PM
A strong strategy would be for the various village residents to approach their own Village boards and request they adopt the Trustee beach driving rules in their entirety. This should include recognizing the Trustee vehicle permits for operation within the Village boundaries. This would eliminate any possible confusion and also initiate better cooperation between the Trustees and the Village Boards.
By roverton (64), Westhampton on Feb 17, 16 7:43 PM
Spoken like a true former out voted trustee
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Feb 22, 16 7:58 PM
Roverton, that sounds like a good plan. NOT
By 11953guest (48), southampton on Feb 17, 16 10:54 PM
Villages could restrict or change access. Trustees, don't give up control...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Feb 19, 16 1:30 PM