It’s been nearly eight months since the Southampton Town Trustees threatened legal action against the Village of Southampton, in a letter that demanded the seven “lettered roads” along Meadow Lane be cleared and opened up to allow people to access the beach.
While no lawsuit has been filed by the Trustees, drawings emerged this week of what the roads would look like if they were paved and parking spaces were added—something the village staunchly opposes.
In 1956, the Trustees deeded the lettered roads to the village for a mere $10. Written into the deed was a reverter clause to ensure that the seven roads, Road A through Road G, would always be available for the public to access the ocean and bay beaches.
Last year, the Trustees claimed that the village had defaulted on the agreement, allowing the roads to become overgrown and inaccessible—and in some cases allowing adjoining property owners to encroach on the roads—and that public access was limited as a result.
In the letter, the Trustees also demanded that the roads be cleared and left open for the public to access the beach, but also that the roads be paved with a material like crushed shells to allow cars to get through without sinking into the sand. The Trustees demanded that all parking restrictions on Meadow Lane and the roads themselves be lifted to allow people to park and cross over the dune to get to the beach.
Last month, the Trustees had compositions drawn up by the town engineer’s office depicting what the roads would look like paved with designated parking spots. The mock-ups were sent to the Trustees on June 28, and show roads A, B and C with an ingress and egress lane and 10 angled parking spots on the western side of each road. Also included in the plans is a turnaround area for vehicles, on the dune end of the road.
The mockups were provided to The Press by a Trustee, on condition of anonymity, because the board has not yet discussed the plans at a work session.
Town Trustee President Ed Warner denied knowledge of the plans on Thursday, July 5, and said he was still waiting for copies from the town engineer’s office. Once he gets the plans, he said, the board will go over them with its environmental analyst, James Duryea, and then meet with Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving.
Discussions between the mayor and the Trustees have been non-existent since the letter was sent last fall. In fact, when Mr. Irving was asked about future plans and the mock-ups that were drawn, he said he was unaware of them—and that officials do not plan to turn control of the roads back over to the Trustees.
“The village has no intent of having parking on the lettered roads,” Mr. Irving said on Thursday, citing environmental concerns. “There were discussions last year, and I made it clear where the village stood on the issue.”
Southampton Village Attorney Wayne Bruyn and Mr. Irving both said this week that the village had done what was promised in 1956, to provide the public access to the beach. Additionally, Mr. Bruyn noted that in addition to the lettered roads, the 1956 agreement also included Meadow Lane, a nearly four-mile stretch of road lined with multimillion-dollar homes that leads to a Suffolk County-owned park, Shinnecock East.
Road F is a drive-on access for people to drive four-wheel-drive vehicles onto the beach. Road D has been paved and allows anyone from anywhere to park without a permit and walk over the dune to the beach.
As for roads A, B and C, village officials cleared much of the brush to create pathways for people to walk to the beach and erected signs identifying where the roads are located.
It’s not enough, though, according to Mr. Warner.
“There really are no public parking spaces for anybody down there,” he said. “There will be limited parking after we come up with a plan.”
This all comes at a time when the Trustees are entangled in a battle over a Trustee-owned property at the end of Rose Hill Road on the northern shores of Mecox Bay. Because the Trustees could not afford to maintain the 0.61-acre lot, which contains a boat ramp, they entered into an agreement with neighboring homeowner Randy Frankel. The agreement allowed Mr. Frankel to move part of his circular driveway onto the Trustees’ property, and in exchange, he agreed to take care of dredging the boat ramp, which fills with sand regularly, plow the snow, pave the driveway and parking area, and care for the landscape.
If the Trustees cannot afford to maintain the Rose Hill Road property, some have questioned whether they would be able to maintain the lettered roads and Meadow Lane—because according to Mr. Bruyn, they’ll get all or nothing if they reclaim the roads.
Mr. Irving said if the Trustees did take the roads back, responsibility for road maintenance, police and emergency services, trash pick-up, plowing and signs would all fall completely to the Trustees, not the village.
“It seems to be a big undertaking to get what you claim is 30 parking spots, when I have offered them more than 30 in a designated lot, where vehicles belong,” Mr. Irving said. “I just don’t get the logic.”
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