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Nov 11, 2009 12:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sagaponack hears pitch for beach tax again

Nov 11, 2009 12:22 PM

The Sagaponack resident who recently lost a lawsuit against Suffolk County demanding that the county pay to renourish eroded beaches west of three stone groins in East Hampton Village asked the Sagaponack Village Board to rekindle an effort to create a special taxing district that could allow local municipalities to fund some of the work themselves.

Gary Ireland, whose mother, Cynthia, sued the county in conjunction with Southampton Town and the Town Trustees, told the Village Board members on Monday that if the town were to go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with money in hand, it might stand a better chance of getting the beaches rebuilt. To raise the money, he proposed creating an erosion control district that would allow the town to tax homeowners and dedicate the revenue to rebuilding the beaches.

Coastal geologist Aram Terchunian told the board the work could be expected to cost $30 million.

“For the last 30 years, Suffolk County has been singularly non-responsive” to requests for funding to restore beaches eroded by the groins it built in East Hampton in the 1960s, Mr. Terchunian said. “Therefore, self-help is what is needed. Without local support, you can’t go anywhere. If you show up with your hand out and no money, they don’t want to hear from you.”

Mr. Terchunian said that a major sand replenishment project would be needed to protect Sagaponack’s oceanfront in the future. First, he said, the beaches would have to be restored to their original width of 100 feet or more. Then, a second layer of sand would have to be placed in the surf zone, one that would have to be restored continually every three to four years, to protect the main beachhead.

Mr. Ireland said that other oceanfront communities like the Jersey Shore and Miami Beach rely entirely on regular artificial sand transfers to maintain their beaches. “It’s done from [Cape Cod] down to Florida,” he said. “Without beach nourishment, there would be no Miami Beach.”

Sagaponack and Southampton Town proposed the idea of erosion control districts in Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack back in 2006. In Sagaponack, the plan was defeated by homeowners in the proposed districts in a special vote. The proposal was derailed in Water Mill and Bridgehampton before it could be put on a ballot.

Mr. Ireland said the political situation in the town was different in 2006, on the heels of other tax increases at the time. He asked the Sagaponack board to broach the subject with the town again.

Board members were non-committal but said they would discuss it. Mayor Don Louchheim doubted whether local residents would be willing to saddle themselves with a new tax without some guarantee that federal, state or county funds would ease their burden some.

Mr. Ireland, whose family filed the lawsuit against the county 10 years ago, said it was a step that had to be taken.

“No one wants to pay for a project that was somebody else’s blunder, particularly when they knew what was going to happen,” Mr. Ireland said, nodding to reports done by county engineers when the groins were built that warned they would cause erosion to their west. “That being said ... that’s what we have to do anyway.”

michael wright

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Artificial sandbars are proven technology that could be used to stabilize East End beaches. They are permanent, invisible (placed on the ocean floor), break the force of incoming waves (perfect for surfing and [protecting the shoreline) and they trap any sand that does get eroded from the beach.

A mechanism for funding the construction of this system with private money - something there is no shortage of out here - is what needs to be found. Oceanfront homeowners would gladly pay to have ...more
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Nov 11, 09 6:36 PM
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