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Dec 23, 2013 12:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Trustees To File Suit Against Southampton Village And DEC For Beach Structures

Dec 23, 2013 12:59 PM

The Southampton Town Trustees intend to file a lawsuit against Southampton Village and the State Department of Environmental Conservation this week, asking the courts to determine whether they have complied with state regulations pertaining to hard structures and bulkheads on beaches.

Joseph Lombardo, the attorney representing the Trustees, said he planned to file the lawsuit in Suffolk County court on Tuesday morning. The suit seeks a declaration from the court that the DEC and the village have not been following state coastal policies with regard to rebuilding beaches in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other recent powerful storms. The suit will specifically name both the DEC and Southampton Village as well as Jonathan Foster, the senior building inspector for the village, who authorized several bulkhead permits granted to oceanfront property owners.

On Monday morning, Trustee Fred Havemeyer said his office has been working with consultant Steven Resler, the retired chief compliance officer for the Department of State, to learn as much as possible about the regulations that both the DEC and the village are required to follow.

According to Mr. Havemeyer, Mr. Resler was the chief compliance officer who helped write the regulations in question and has a deep understanding of the laws. The Department of State writes all regulations, which are then interpreted by the DEC, and then locally interpreted by municipalities, according to Mr. Havemeyer.

“The lawsuit is simply asking a judge to look over the situation and determine whether the DEC and the village have complied with the regulations,” Mr. Havemeyer said in a phone interview on Monday. “And if they haven’t, it is asking them to comply with them in the future.”

Southampton Village has taken heat from the Trustees and local environmental groups in the past year for approving steel and stone seawalls to protect oceanfront homes in the wake of recent storms and subsequent erosion. The projects, which were allowed as post-storm emergency measures, skirted regional public policies that generally forbid new hard structures on the beach, although existing structures can be replaced.

According to Mr. Havemeyer, the village interpreted the emergency measure, which allowed for damaged bulkheads and seawalls to be repaired within 18 inches of the original structure, very loosely, in some cases allowing steel to be installed behind perfectly functioning bulkheads to raise the structures by between 5 and 10 feet.

In May, complaints led the DEC to ask the village not to authorize any more permits while the agency investigated the issue, a move that was lifted without explanation during the summer pending a report. The permit authorization, and, in the Trustees’ eyes, the DEC’s failure to act have led to this week’s suit.

Now the Trustees are hoping the court will require that they be notified of any application regarding a bulkhead or similar hard structure on village beaches.

“The shore-hardening structures have the potential of basically destroying the beaches,” Mr. Lombardo said on Monday morning. “The beaches have public access easements that the Trustees are the stewards of, and the Trustees want to make sure the easement isn’t diminished. The Trustees are trying to preserve the beaches.”

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This lawsuit illustrates how much of a hit the Town residents will be taking along with the retirement of Fred Havemeyer. It's sad that he was esentially run out of office by silly politics. Perhaps he will remain a vocal advocate in the community and let his voice be heard because it seems that other Trustees are fine without ruffling any feathers
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 23, 13 2:20 PM
3 members liked this comment
I thought the DEC already reviewed the Villages permit process and had no problem with how permits were being reviewed and issued? Nice work Town Trustees, waste more Taxpayer dollars bringing a suit against a neighboring Municipality and the State.
By 11953guest (47), southampton on Dec 23, 13 2:25 PM
If you read the article you will see that what you state is not at all the same as what Mr. Havemeyer is asking for in the lawsuit.

This is not about the basic process of permit issuance, this is about interpretation of the law. Fred (and apparently enough of the fellow trustees) feel that there is an injustice that is damaging the rights of the freeholders of the town (us citizens) and they are doing what they can to protect those rights.

Your concern apparently stems from the ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 23, 13 2:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well done.

The monstrous steel bulkhead installed at Little Plains Road last winter did not replace a bulkhead damaged by Sandy. Details and photos under other articles (not yet linked above).

Mayor Epley was quoted as saying that he had seen photos of the so-called bulkhead.

Let's see 'em.
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Dec 23, 13 2:47 PM
Here is the bulkhead just to the west of Little Plains Road, and from the article:

“My golly, the tricks people will play,” Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer said. “They drove the steel in behind the bulkhead, 5 feet higher than what is there, claiming they were just replacing an existing bulkhead.”


By PBR (4953), Southampton on Dec 24, 13 10:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
Fred installed a nice bulkhead in Lake Agawam; His grandfather installed the most intrusive bulkhead on the Village oceanfront near Old Town, now Fred wants to reinterpret the codes so others can't protect their homes. A bulkhead on someone's land does not impede access to our beaches like a groin heading seaward and groins are not being installed by these homeowners.
By 11953guest (47), southampton on Dec 24, 13 10:21 AM
The bulkhead on Lake Agawam was already there - what the Trustees did was replace it so that the road/parking area would not be compromised and they installed an area of native plantings and rocks to filter out contaminates that were entering the lake via road runoff during storm events.

You claim his grandfather "installed the most intrustive bulkhead on the Village oceanfront near Old Town". Ok, given that Fred is probably at 60-65 years old - we can assume his grandfather was born 120 ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 24, 13 10:35 AM
3 members liked this comment
11953guest, in my personal opinion, Mr. Havemeyer does not want to reinterpret the codes, he wants to enforce the existing laws uniformly and without favoritism (in particular The Dongan Patent, as developed through the Common Law).

Check the photo in the link just posted above. You can see the old original (and very intact after Sandy) "bulkhead" clearly in front of the new steel bulkhead towering above. The wooden structure replaced by the steel was not a bulkhead, but rather a hefty ...more
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Dec 24, 13 10:54 AM
Fred Havemeyer borrowed 300k on our tab, raised parking to $150 for the area around Lake Agawan, and now has the area named after him? Another politician who thinks that doing his job is what heros are made of. The new bulkhead does not stop water from going in the Lake, because it is 8 inches to ground water. The water still flows right into the lake as usual nice job Fred. I knew the trustees were going the way of lawsuits since they hired Joe Lombardo. Remember him? The guy who persecuted citizens ...more
By chief1 (2790), southampton on Dec 26, 13 3:20 PM
Wrong on many counts, as usual, but just taking your last point that "It's private property . . . "

Try building a house without a building permit.

The steel bulkhead in question is firmly within the jurisdiction of the DEC and the Town Trustees.
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Dec 26, 13 3:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
They had permission to build the bulkhead so what is your point? Do you even understand the subject of the article?
By chief1 (2790), southampton on Dec 26, 13 6:19 PM
No obviously I have no understanding of the subject of the article.


By PBR (4953), Southampton on Dec 26, 13 7:42 PM
Didn't they hire Lombardo as a secretary?
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Dec 26, 13 8:11 PM

Thanks, Fred, again. You will be sorely missed by regular people. Hope you put up an NGO and keep doing the same thing for us.
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Dec 28, 13 7:46 PM
Big spread in Tuesday today.
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Dec 31, 13 7:14 AM
This is just Great! Now I am suing myself as a taxpayer. Terrific! For village residents they are suing themselves twice both as village and town taxpayers.
The winners will be the lawyers as usual!
By Jimion (129), Hampton Bays on Jan 1, 14 10:45 AM
The area is lined with the most expensive homes in th eUS that ceetainly can afford anything they want. They should form a new Eroison Control Assessment District and rebuild the beach just like the ECD is doing from Water Mill to Sagaponack. Then there would be no need for bulkheads. Coopers Beach to Flying Point, the owners there certainly can afford it and that would take the worry and expense away from protecting ones property individually and would be better off. The property that bulkheads ...more
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on Jan 2, 14 6:35 AM
2 members liked this comment
It will be interesting to see how the new sand in Sagaponack holds up in this storm.
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Jan 2, 14 7:23 AM
By PBR (4953), Southampton on Jan 2, 14 7:29 AM
don't listen to 11953 that's just gary v or aram or one of those other up the island slugs who hate the trustees for protecting what belongs to all of us instead of letting them line their pockets with a couple more millions.
By em (51), east hampton on Jan 3, 14 9:49 AM
2 members liked this comment