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May 14, 2012 1:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Ruling Could Strip Authority Of Southampton Town Trustees To Regulate Village Beaches

May 16, 2012 10:48 AM

The Trustees argued in their legal filings that the 1818 law did not strip them of their authority, stating that it merely gave the Proprietors a shared authority, and when that group dissolved itself in 1882, the Trustees were again left as the only ones with management authority over the beaches.

“I think he misinterpreted the 1818 law and did not take into account later legislation and a long history of ocean regulation by the Town Trustees after 1882,” Trustees attorney Richard Cahn said of the judge’s decision. “There is no basis in the 1818 law to say that the Trustees lost the right to protect their easement.”

The Trustees’ appeal of the decision will put an immediate stay on the ruling, and Mr. Shultz said the Trustees will continue to assert their authority to regulate any protective structures along the oceanfront.

Ms. Strunk noted that Justice Mayer’s decision does not seem to challenge the Trustees’ easement or the public’s right to access the beaches. Rather, she said it simply states that their case presented no evidence that the Geocubes employed by the village and the homeowners posed any threat or hindrance to the public’s access to the beach.

The Trustees filed the lawsuit in 2010 after Quogue Village placed the giant sandbags along the front of its beach pavilion, following a winter storm that eroded the dunes and scoured the beach out from under the facility. The Trustees said the village had to seek an emergency permit from them before doing the work, which the Trustees had previously denied. Mr. Napoli and the Levines, whose houses sit immediately adjacent the village beach, also put in Geocubes, despite having been told previously by the Trustees that they could not.

The Trustees said that inspections of the Geocubes after the fact indicated that at least seven homeowners in all installed and buried them beneath tons of trucked-in sand, fashioned into new dunes, without requesting permits from the Trustees.

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By patrickstar (67), hampton bays on May 14, 12 4:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Silly Patrick.. Don't you know that trustees don't know jack about beach erosion..?
By The Royal 'We' (199), Southampton on May 14, 12 4:26 PM
If it wasn't for the Trustees, we would not have the beach access we have today.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 14, 12 5:07 PM
i wouldn't say that trustees don't know "jack" but i think the larger issue is not really about erosion but controlling access to beaches which are more and more becoming less accessible to the general public. People buy up the land and mark their territory. i would probably do the same thing but since i cannot afford an over-priced beach property i am stuck using the 4wd which is pretty cool for this season
By bob surfer (8), Hampton Bays on May 14, 12 5:41 PM
Beg to differ, if erosion gets out of control with the reckless placement of just a few hardened structures there won't be any beach to control access to.
By shocean (16), Southampton on May 14, 12 6:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
Ditto to Mr. Shultz -- protect the Dongan Patent!

The implications of this ruling are huge indeed, both for Southampton Town, and the rest of the East End whose freeholders are beneficiaries of the Patent.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 14, 12 6:17 PM

Really, really8, do you mean what you say?

Maybe your post is intended to be a joke, but the Dongan Patent gave the Freeholders of the East End control over the waters of the East End LONG before there was a American Revolution and a United States of America!

Not to mention long before the State of New York, and its DEC were established.

Do the research, and please appreciate that is ONLY because of the Town Trustees have protected our rights (independent ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 14, 12 7:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry, really8?, if my previous post appeared over-righteous or pompous (in your eyes).

Your mention of the DEC as the agency of review got me going. The DEC is not a good friend of the East End at all IMO. You say the public access to the beach is "sacrosanct?" (unless the DEC says otherwise? Think about it).

The Judge missed the boat here IMO, when he did not rule more broadly in favor of the Town Trustee's right to control the beach to the dune line.

Is "all lost?" ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 15, 12 2:35 PM

"The Judge missed the boat here IMO, when he did not rule more broadly in favor of the Town Trustee's right to control the beach to the dune line."

Curious, what facts would enable him to grant powers to the Trustees not expressed in the Dongan Patent.

This ruling could effect a change in the Trustee Piping Plover Program. That program seems to be in direct conflict of interest with the Trustees mission to continue to provide beach access to the public. Closed beaches and ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on May 15, 12 5:49 PM
Case law has interpreted our local rights under the Dongan Patent to be broader than the original document might suggest. Such is the nature of our legal system -- a legal document is what the courts later say it is, for better or worse. Similar to judicial interpretation of the US Constitution, the intent of the drafters is considered.

Did they know about Piping Plovers centuries ago? Probably not, but that is why we have courts to fill in the blanks (again, for better or worse -- one ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 15, 12 6:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
That like is for all, but the Piping Plover portion of your reply.

Plovers are shorebirds not the waterfowl which the Trustees are to regulate. Why those particular birds needs are placed above others is odd. Being that they nest on the ground, maybe we should let ecological succession run it's coarse.

Checkout this case law for some interesting facts, as well as an example of Trustees wasting tax dollars assailing Freeholders property rights unfoundedly:

Trustees ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on May 16, 12 12:57 PM
The proprietors had the right to manage the commons and sell them. They sold off all of the lands in 1882. So who managed the beaches after that? 46 years later Quogue was incorporated. If management reverted back to the trustees was the management right then transferred? Is it mentioned in the incorporation papers? lots of questions. Did the judge address it in his decision?
By clammer (23), hampton bays on May 14, 12 11:37 PM
I have NO pity for the homeowners on the beach~

Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn't fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn't do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and ...more
By Jaws (245), Westhampton Beach on May 15, 12 3:55 AM
2 members liked this comment
LOL, Scipture brilliant! LOL!

Long Island is a Glacial Terminal Moraine, we all live on sand!
By ICE (1214), Southampton on May 15, 12 5:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
I don't know anything about the legal technicalities of this case, but I know whenever there's been a fight about the waters or the shoreline, the trustees have been on the right side nine out of ten times, at least. Good enough for me. Trustees rock!
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on May 16, 12 9:43 PM
You don't know anything about the legal technicalities... of the long fights To retain rights to the open waters and beaches? Well I suggest to make it your business TODAY to research that!
You lhave no lright to call yourself clam pie or anything else connected to our heiritage! At least you redeemed yourself a bit with admission Trustees rock.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on May 17, 12 6:58 AM
How are you doing with your English, summertime? I said "I don't know anything about the legal technicalities of this case," meaning this particular court case reported above, challenging trustee jurisdiction.

I do know about what you call "the long fights to retain rights to the open waters and beaches," or I think I do, otherwise I wouldn't have said "whenever there's been a fight about the waters or the shoreline, the trustees have been on the right side ..." I don't need to research ...more
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on May 17, 12 10:08 AM
And if you allow mother nature to wipe out the dunes than we won't have anything to argue about because the beach will be gone.
By V.O.R. (3), Rockville Centre on May 17, 12 4:47 PM
So true V.O.R. - the Trustees are constantly walking a fine line sayin "protect" (and encourage!) dune reatoration and homeowner's protecting their property in a way that is "acceptable" to the Trustees (vs. I must say - "claiming" the beach) Of course there are tose homeowners who say "this is mine" and the "have nots" who say "who cares" ... but the larger issue is, I believe, iit can work both ways. If it makes sense and doesn't cost those of us who don't live on a bay or the ocean tax money ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on May 19, 12 4:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Federal Flood Insurance Program in which SH Town participates is a HUGE subsidy program for the Flood Plains in the interior of this country. The Atlantic and Gulf Coast homeowners have paid in substantially more than they have taken out even with Andrew & Katrina!

The riverine areas flood EVERY spring and the people go right back and do the same thing year after year! Spring snowmelt is not a sporadic occurrence, you can count on it.

With this taken into consideration, maybe ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on May 20, 12 2:40 PM
Time to get rid of the Trustees we have the DEC and a bunch of other govt bureaus to do their job. What Judge ever enforced the Dongan Patent to begin with? It was a document made before this country was even settled by the King Of England. How could it even be legal it wasn't even made by an American Governing body. How much do the trustees pay on legal fees to defend all of their lawsuits? I think they infringe on peoples property rights, and often blame property owners for pollution. Time to ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 21, 12 9:33 PM