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Jul 19, 2016 2:04 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trustees Seek More Public Beach Access

Southampton Town Trustees and Southampton Village officials are looking into options that could open the lettered roads along Meadow Lane back up for the public to access the beach.
Jul 19, 2016 4:43 PM

The Southampton Town Trustees may go to court to try to reclaim a group of oceanfront roads along Meadow Lane, each bearing a letter as a name, which their predecessors had deeded to Southampton Village in 1956 for just $10.

Written into the deed was a reverter clause to ensure that the seven roads, Road A through Road G, were always available for the public to access the beach. Now, 60 years later, some of the roads are overgrown and blocked off, virtually nonexistent; others meander onto private properties, where mansions have been built along one of the most valuable stretches of real estate on the South Fork.

The Trustees are working with village officials to get the public roads to the beaches open by the end of summer. If that doesn’t happen, Town Trustee President Ed Warner Jr. said, the Trustees may take stronger action: going to court to formally take back the roads. But that would mean more litigation—something Mr. Warner said the Trustees do not need.

Beach access groups say it’s part of a larger issue of beach access disappearing, and they want the Trustees to make a move to put the seven roads back into their own hands, so people can at least walk to the beach on the lettered roads.

John Kosciusko, the president of the Southampton Association for Beach Access, brought the roads to the attention of Southampton Village Board members at a recent public hearing on proposed new limits on the number of vehicles allowed to park on the beach at the “Picnic Area,” the only sandy stretch on the ocean where four-wheel-drive vehicles are permitted to drive and park during the day between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Mr. Kosciusko showed board members images of the lettered roads, many of which were overgrown with weeds, blocked off by chains or 2-by-4s, and not even recognizable as roads.

The SABA president broke down the specifics of each road. Road A, he said, is being used by a homeowner to do “substantial landscaping.” Road B is overgrown. Road C has been chained off by the homeowner to keep the public off the property, and so the owner can access his property. Road D, at the time, was roped off to protect piping plovers, although pedestrians still had the ability to walk onto the beach using the access. Road E was overgrown. The village had put up a gate at Road F to be able to close it off when needed, and was in the process or creating a new parking at Road G at the time of Mr. Kosciusko’s inspection.

“I think they’ve been neglected,” Mr. Kosciusko told Village Board members, adding that he wanted to keep them open.

Both the Village Board and the Southampton Town Trustees are eying the lettered roads as possible new access points to the beach—although when they would be open, and whether beach users would be able to park along them and walk to the beach, or to drive down the lettered roads and onto the beach, have not yet been decided.

“We’re in conversation with [Village Mayor Mark Epley] about these roads,” Town Trustee Bruce Stafford said at a recent Town Trustees meeting, taking the lead on this project on behalf of the Trustees. “I think this board, unanimously, would like to see them opened up, whether the village does it or we do it.”

Mr. Warner, president of the Town Trustees, said he would like to open roads A, B and C as parking areas with pedestrian access to the beach. Many of the roads are 50 feet wide and 100 to 200 feet long, offering plenty of space to park cars.

“You can probably fit 10 to 20 cars, and just have a walk over the dune, and facilitate use of the beaches along that stretch of Meadow Lane,” Mr. Warner said. “It’s really important.”

Mr. Warner said he has asked Mr. Epley to open the roads, which he described as being right next to “prime real estate.”

“Those people are basically taking them over as part of their property, which is not what the Trustees are about,” Mr. Warner said of property owners along Meadow Lane. “We’re about facilitating public access.”

Mr. Epley said he wanted to wait until after the Fourth of July to start looking into options. Now, he plans to have surveys of the roads completed, and then he said he will figure out a plan to open them up for the public, most likely to create parking areas with paths over the dunes.

Mr. Warner said the last thing he wants is any more litigation, particularly when the village and the Trustees are working together as defendants in a lawsuit related to the “Picnic Area,” another oceanfront stretch in the village. Filed on behalf of property owners Kathleen Araskog Thomas, Andrew S. Thomas, Rand V. Araskog and Jessi M. Araskog in October 2015, the suit claims that the village and Town Trustees were unfairly and illegally allowing vehicles on a small portion of the beach while excluding them from other beaches.

The Araskog lawsuit is still active, but the Trustees took a beating earlier this year when the State Court of Appeals denied several of their appeals, ultimately stripping their authority over hard erosion structures and beach-related activities—other than collecting seaweed—along the ocean within village boundaries.

“We’re losing access, as far as the people parking on the beach, so we’re going to have to gain somewhere else,” Mr. Warner said.

Not only are the Trustees looking at the lettered roads but, earlier this month, Mr. Warner and Trustee Scott Horowitz met with Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman to discuss the possibility of opening the beach off Triton Lane in East Quogue as a place where four-wheel drivers can drive and park.

While a parking area west of Shinnecock Inlet would relieve some pressure from the “Picnic Area,” Mr. Epley said he thinks the Trustees should explore more areas east of the inlet. And, in fact, Mr. Warner said there has been some talk about exploring Water Mill as another site for beach driving.

Meanwhile, as far as the lettered roads in Southampton Village are concerned, Mr. Warner said the mayor appears to be moving forward—but hinted that the clock is ticking.

“If he doesn’t open them up by the end of summer here, maybe we’re going to have to facilitate some stronger action and take them back,” he said.

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finally, some sensible talk about beach access! maybe even go the extra mile and attempt to revert to SH town roads rather than village.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (524), southampton on Jul 20, 16 11:27 AM
1 member liked this comment
I just don't understand, if these are public roads how can they be blocked off? Why doesn't the village immediately send a crew to each location and remove the barriers? I just don't get it.
By weaver (16), southampton on Jul 20, 16 11:50 AM
Yes please. The town beaches are overcrowded and if you don't get there before 11 am all the parking spots are gone.
By johnj (834), Westhampton on Jul 20, 16 12:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thought the trustees had those surveyed years ago? Try looking in the records before spending more money.
By knitter (1303), Southampton on Jul 20, 16 2:00 PM
Why is Road "E", Dune Beach, a Village beach and not a town beach?
By foodwhiner (130), Southampton on Jul 20, 16 2:06 PM
Show your support to the Southampton Town Trustees by signing the petition at southamptonbeach.org

It is IMPORTANT that their authority be reinstated !!!!!
By toes in the water (643), southampton on Jul 20, 16 5:35 PM
If the village has failed in their due diligence, would the reverter clause not apply without litigation?

If the village has not held up their end, the property should be returned to the grantor without question.
Jul 20, 16 6:12 PM appended by Mr. Z
Also, it does seem like the Askarog's and those in the same boat have opened their own personal Pandora's Box, as it were...
By Mr. Z (10235), North Sea on Jul 20, 16 6:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
Protect public beach access for everyone!!
By H2O (83), easthampton on Jul 20, 16 6:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
Irresponsible that this needs to be done let alone taken sofa king long.
Tske bsck the road connecting tuckahoe to st Andrews. . And the public access to scallop pond at nat'l golf
By dave h (184), calverton on Jul 20, 16 7:03 PM
Reverter, in the context of real property, means the return to the grantor or his/her heirs of real property after all interests in the property given to others have terminated. Reverter occurs when the property owner transfers a vested estate of lesser quantum than he started with. Reverter is also called "reversion". For example, if A grants land “to B until he marries Y” or “to Z so long as the land is used for church purposes”, then there is a possibility that the land ...more
By Summer Resident (217), Southampton N.Y. on Jul 21, 16 2:40 AM
No, the "reverter clause" is a set conditions for the grantee the conveyance of said property is made to. When and if those conditions are not met, the property is returned to the grantor as a matter of contract.
By Mr. Z (10235), North Sea on Jul 21, 16 5:43 AM
2 members liked this comment
The wording on the documents says, SHALL REVERT . Pretty cut and dried. Good job Trustees!!
By bigfresh (3567), north sea on Jul 21, 16 6:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Just took an after work swim off the beach at road A, Very nice. Open for business.
By bigfresh (3567), north sea on Jul 21, 16 4:28 PM
Really MrZ you think it's that easy? lol
By chief1 (2473), southampton on Jul 22, 16 7:31 AM
It's called breach of contract due to non performance.

We even have pictures...
By Mr. Z (10235), North Sea on Jul 24, 16 9:04 AM
Take back the public beaches from the Robber Barons now! I'm gonna start today, I'll park at D or Dune Beach, and walk over to one of those overgrown roads and use it, hedge fund magnates be damned!
By Richierich (6), Shinnecock on Jul 24, 16 8:58 AM
1 member liked this comment