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Jan 30, 2013 9:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Residents To Vote Today On $25 Million Beach Rebuilding Proposal

Jan 30, 2013 11:38 AM

Oceanfront property owners in Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack will cast votes this weekend to decide whether Southampton Town should embark on a $25 million project—largely funded by those same taxpayers—to rebuild beaches along a six-mile stretch of Atlantic Ocean coastline that has long suffered from chronic severe erosion.

Voting will take place on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Town Hall, though many of the 193 eligible voters had already cast absentee ballots by early in the week.

The mammoth beach reconstruction, if approved, would be funded with a municipal bond from Southampton Town, repaid over 10 years through a special tax levied only on those oceanfront properties within the project’s reach, by way of two oceanfront taxing districts. Southampton Town would contribute $1.5 million to the cost of the project from a reserve fund of parks fees charged to developers—with no tax impact on town residents.

If the project is approved, taxes would be levied on the homeowners according to formulas primarily based on the linear feet of frontage on the beach. In Sagaponack, the calculation also takes into account assessed value—a caveat that captures the immense value of the 63-acre estate owned by Ira Rennert.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said this week that the town would be looking into whether the project would be eligible for funding assistance provided by the $50.5 billion package of federal disaster aid approved this week to help with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy and mitigation of future storm impacts. But she said town officials do not expect federal funding will cover the work and are moving forward on that assumption.

“It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not, and there is a lot of need,” she said of the billions of dollars that will be funneled into the region but will be split among hundreds of communities battered by the storm. “One of the questions we do have is that, if in the event there is funding for sand renourishment projects like this, what areas would the Army Corps [of Engineers] have on their schedule? If this fits the plan then maybe we could get some assistance there.”

Coastal engineering consultant Aram Terchunian, whose Westhampton Beach-based company, First Coastal, has spearheaded the design, planning and public campaign of the beach rebuilding project, said he would expect the town to try to find some Sandy aid to either offset the costs of the project or expand its scope. But he, too, acknowledged that it was unlikely the project would receive any aid.

The project calls for some 2.5 million tons of sand to be sucked up by a giant dredge ship from the ocean bottom about one mile offshore, and pumped onto the beaches and into the near-shore surf line. The work has been billed as replacing about 10 years of eroded sand. Following Hurricane Sandy, the scope of the project was increased by about 10 percent to make up for the additional losses during the first hurricane-force storm to strike the East End in more than 20 years.

There are 141 properties along the oceanfront in the two taxing districts, which stretch from Flying Point Beach in Water Mill to the eastern border between Sagaponack Village and East Hampton Town. Five of the properties are municipal beaches owned by Southampton Town, which prompted the town’s $1.5 million contribution.

Initially, plans had been to allow only one person to vote per property and for each property owner to vote only once, regardless of the number of properties owned. But the town attorney’s office advised allowing any persons whose names are listed on the deeds to a property to vote. Each may still vote only once, regardless of how many properties are owned.

According to Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, there are 79 oceanfront properties in the Bridgehampton Beach Erosion Control District, and 112 eligible voters. There are 54 oceanfront properties in the Sagaponack Beach Erosion Control District, and 81 eligible voters.

Two property owners, the White family in Sagaponack and the Bridgehampton Club, will be eligible to vote in the referendum but are expected to ultimately be exempted from paying the bulk of the taxes they would originally be assessed, because both have conservation easements over the large swaths of oceanfront land they own. Members of the Bridgehampton Club Board of Directors said this week that they have instructed the club’s controller, Gayle Donahue, to cast its single vote in favor of the project. The White family could not be reached for comment on the vote.

As of Tuesday, 80 voters had submitted absentee ballots. Ms. Schermeyer said she would allow absentee ballots to be cast in person at Town Hall on Thursday and Friday by residents who cannot be present for the Saturday polling.

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since we have south high winds 25-35 mph coming in tonight with gusts up to 60 mph there probably won't be a beach tomorrow and all that VERY expensive sand being trucked for many weeks will be gone. OK with the oceanfront owners rebuilding the dunes and protecting the investment but we must be sure that down the road the owners don't claim to own the beach.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Jan 30, 13 4:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
Not only must rights of the Trustees under the Dongan Patent be ensured in writing, so too the Town must be held harmless from an future damage to homes and property.

This must not be allowed to confer any new or additional rights whatsoever on the oceanfront property owners, just because they are to contribute toward the beach replenishment.

[Aside from the fact that putting sand on the beach is sheer folly!]
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 30, 13 4:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
I wouldn't be overly concerned about those two issues - there's an erosion control taxation district in HB and East Quogue (has been for many years) and those are not and have not been issues. Dongan patent always applies - it's been on the books since Day 1 and has been held up in court time and time (and time) again.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 30, 13 4:20 PM
National Data Buoy 44017 (23 NM SSW of Montauk) is back online. This station is directly off the beach in East Hampton +/-, and records wind and gust speeds, wave heights, etc..
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 30, 13 4:28 PM
Southampton Town would contribute $1.5 million to the cost of the project from a reserve fund of parks fees charged to developers—with no tax impact on town residents.

Yea... about that. It's not a "reserve" fund. It's a fund which is paid into by developer's who are REQUIRED to make a contribution in liue of constructing a public park as part of their developments. The article certainly implies that it's extra money sitting around, but that money is supposed to be used for making ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 30, 13 4:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
If this sand pumping is washed away do you think the homeowners will continue to pay? Doubtful. They will litigate with the town, engineers and anyone else that was dumb enough to think sand will be a permanent solution. They will say the job was done wrong. They will pay experts to make their cas and wear out the town till they can no longer litigate. Let these people pay their own money to fix their beach. If you want to follow the money ask yourself why Smith and Wolensky steakhouse was Anna ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 30, 13 5:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
chief1 expresses legitimate concerns IMO.

In addition to written contracts covering the SH Town Trustees' rights and a hold harmless provision (see above), each property owner should be required to post a performance bond for his or her entire obligation for the full course of time in question. Plus an undertaking to reimburse the Town for its legal expenses (which promise should be rolled into the performance bond).

And the bond companies underwriting such performance bonds should ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 30, 13 5:52 PM
3 members liked this comment
I again have to disagree with you PBR.

There's already an erosion control district within the Town of Southampton (Hampton Bays and East Quogue). They pay an extra tax every year that goes into a fund held by the Town. When they install snow fencing or order sand to be put on their beach from the local mine - they make a withdrawal from that fund. They've never refused to pay their taxes and they've never filed a lawsuit against the Town - and guess what, their erosion control measures ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 30, 13 10:01 PM
Your points are well taken, but they assume that the events of the past are accurate predictors of the future.

What if the worst-case scenario happens?

What if there IS NO PROPERTY left after the next "Super-Storm Mother Nature?" [or two or three or four . . . such super-storms]

What if the East End as we know it does not exist, and its current residents are living elsewhere?

Am I being melodramatic only to be melodramatic? No. Someday Long Island is not going ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 5:37 AM
The bond is for 10 years - not "30" and your suggestion of: "What if the East End as we know it does not exist, and its current residents are living elsewhere?" leads me to think that if THAT actually happens in our lifetime, we have much MUCH bigger problems to worry about then these people paying back their share of the bond...

Your love affair with the performance bond is onerous in every instance you suggest it. Guess we will have to agree to disagree.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 31, 13 7:36 AM
Exactly. A performance bond is intended to have people put their money where their mouths are. It is also intended to guaranty that the taxpayer will not have to pick up any costs down the road, no matter what the time frame.

What to one person may be "onerous" might be "protective" to others?

This gift of public assistance to private property owners SHOULD come with strings attached, including a performance bond.

BTW what is so onerous about a bond, if this "solution" ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 8:49 AM
They don't need to put their money where their mouths are, because they own property within the Town that can be siezed for failure to pay taxes.

It's onerous because it's completely unnecessary and ridiculous - especially considering how many property owners it involves.

The Town has to bond out money for snow removal during certain years - should every property owner put up a bond incase they decide not to pay their taxes?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 31, 13 9:11 AM
And if the property declines severely in value (doesn't exist any more, can't be built on, is not marketable as residential property, etc.) where is the value of the Town's "security interest" if the property owner walks away from paying? Doesn't the Town end up holding the bag here for the property owners who don't keep their promises?

You seem to have an edge about this performance bond issue, and your comment above seems to refer back to previous situations in which a performance bond ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 9:21 AM
You have misread it - I've stated to you that we must agree to disagree. We have different opinions and different viewpoints. I've got no skin in this game - the reason I'm so against the performance bond is because the government has enough power and makes enough rules and regulations etc. etc. etc. Do we now need to make people put up performance bonds? You've suggested it in the past for various things - including wanting the Town Board to put up performance bonds on something they were voting ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 31, 13 9:39 AM
Snow removal issue does not seem similar IMO. Agree to disagree.

Most of your answers to the possibility of big drops in property values would require the Town to pursue remedies after the property owners bail out (assuming this would happen).

This fiscal clean-up operation by the Town would cost money! In legal fees, staff time, etc., and IMO the homeowners should be required to cover, proactively, ALL possible costs for what is, let us emphasize, a GIFT to them to save their ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 10:00 AM
PS -- performance bonds FORCE all beneficiaries to take their jobs (town officials) and their financial commitments (property owners) VERY seriously.

BTW on a broader scale, IMO the legal fiction "corporation" should be cut back as well, so that business owners would be personally liable for the actions of their companies. Piercing the Corporate Veil would do wonders for a resurrection of personal responsibility all around.

People are too insulated from taking responsibility for ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 10:04 AM
So which is it PBR - the properties will be destoryed and no longer exist, or the properties will flourish and be worth 10X what they are now? Can't have it both ways. I'm willing to "never say never" with respect to groins because science has proven they are completley ineffective (WHD anyone?) and expensive to build (Feds are broke).

The Town is not bailing these people out - the Town is simply the facilitator for a large-scale project that could not be done without the Town. The ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 31, 13 10:30 AM
why don't you two just exchange phone numbers and have a nice chat
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jan 31, 13 6:26 PM
If a house is washed out why would a bank pay real estate taxes on something that doesn't exist? Do you really think that if the sand gets washed out these people will pay a 10 year note on this project? You need to enter thereal world of litigation. Let these people borrow the 25 million on their own, hire professionals, and institute the work. Do you think the town should be involved in a project like this? This is a state with liberal laws and I wouldn't bet the court system will be behind the ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 31, 13 10:50 PM
Chief, You say: "Do you really think that if the sand gets washed out these people will pay a 10 year note on this project?"

If they don't pay, their property gets seized. That's a pretty good incentive for them to pay their taxes.

This job could not be done without Town approval due to the complexity/agencies involved/approvals needed. It's up to the prpoerty owners, it's not being forced on them they are voting for it. Like I stated previously they are all paying tens of ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 13 10:00 AM
These people are millionaires and billionaires they play by their rules. Do you really think they can't wear the town out in court for years until the town gives up? The county can't take the property if they are litigating with the town. The owners can get a restraining order from a judge while the stupid town services the bond. Maybe you wouldn't do this because you are a nice, decent person, but some residents will try to skip out if the project fails. I can guarantee it!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Feb 1, 13 10:27 AM
Nature, your myopia seems uncharacteristic. You hold up the wealth of the property owners as a reason they will continue to pay property taxes even if their home is destroyed and their real property is no longer build-able OR marketable.

The flip side of this wealth argument is that they can afford to walk away from an "unreal" property and leave the Town holding the bag. What is it you don't get about this possibility, albeit remote?

Are you sure you don't have a hidden agenda ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 1, 13 10:35 AM
Please give me a list of hidden agendas I could be harboring. I've historically been opposed to this project (still am) due to the use of government monies, the exemption of two property owners (including one who is FOR-profit) and the bonding of the project on the Town's behalf. I also have questioned many times how much $$ Aram is making off of this deal.

I'm also a realistic person with a full understanding and knowledge of taxation districts (particularly erosion control districts). ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 13 10:59 AM
I guess I will have to take this as a begrudging concession that the Town could be left holding a bag of worthless properties with no property tax revenues collectible.

You sure can get argumentative!

Have a good weekend.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 1, 13 11:55 AM
Westhampton Dunes is my evidence toward the belief that properties that become underwater will not be rendered worthless. Where's your evidence that the property owners will skip out on payment?

I'm all for arguing (and you and I can keep it quite civil) but I tend to utilize facts. You tend to utilize opinion and while we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts. Truthiness is the fault of many a passionate argument.

By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 13 12:20 PM
As if it was not clear from the many posts above, which you keep sidestepping, the future scenario I have been positing is about properties which are destroyed by the future Super-Storm Mother Nature, and the super-storm after that, and the super-storm after that, etc.. Add to this mix the rising level of both high and low tides due to global warming.

The entire East End will not be re-buildable -- get it? Or at least the shoreline has moved so far inland that the standard solutions do ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 1, 13 12:35 PM
We have enough modern engineering to last us 10 years for ocean-front properties, again look @ WHD which were underwater and now sport the largest beaches in the township.

I'm aware that we are a sandbar, I'm aware that re-building is futile and beach re-nourishment is futile. But they want to do it, so let them, if anything it gives me more of a beach to utilize thanks to the Dongan Patent.

Furthermore, if the properties are all under in 10 years under your doomsday scenario ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 13 1:00 PM

Please sign the attached performance bond for your 10-year warranty.

Have a good weekend.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 1, 13 1:38 PM
From another LI Newspaper. QUICK PBR - Go Tell Croci he is going to get screwed when the next hurricane comes!!!

The Islip Town board Tuesday set a date for a public hearing to consider a $19.9 million sand replenishment project for beaches in the town’s portion of Fire Island.

Fire Island beach replenishment usually occurs every two years, said Janessa Trotto, an attorney for the Town of Islip, and the need is greater this year after superstorm Sandy battered the barrier ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 13 2:45 PM
walk the beach every day. have not be able at high tide to go around the private tennis club off Midocean nor able to go around the tide at a house on surfside that sticks way out and has serious problems. can't see that adding sand will stop mother nature or the ocean. look back to the late 60's early 70's and you will find that several houses on surfside dr in BH went into the ocean. since then the beach grew very big and more houses went up but as usual mother nature will be back
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Jan 30, 13 7:46 PM
Yup. Ditto for oceanfront houses in Southampton Village that went in the drink in the 1950's or 60's near Old Town Pond.

With "heads in the sand," how easily we forget and fantasize about the way things are . . .

We are at a climatic [intended] turning point, but most will stay in denial about this IMO. In the meantime, our debts will grow until we have to gag on them.

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 6:33 AM
Wave heights at Buoy 44017 23NM SSW of Montauk topped out at 19' recently. Current winds are 30-40 knots, and have switched to WNW. I hear the oceanfront is chaos this morning. The next high tide is around 10 tonight.

If this sand replenishment had been done a week ago, I wonder how much would be gone already? Let's see, what would it equate to in "millions of dollars" per hour?

Someday human beings will learn about Mother Nature . . . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 11:38 AM
Amazing, the wave heights at this buoy are still around 15', and the winds are 30-40 knots, now out of the WSW, meaning that shoreline erosion could be severe IMO. The NWS forecast is for this event to last through tomorrow night, with only a small drop in wave heights and winds.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 5:11 PM
Here is the NWS forecast from this afternoon:


PS -- High tide is around 10 PM tonight.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 13 5:12 PM
CfAR would like to extend its thoughts and prayers to those who were, and continue to be affected by Hurricane Sandy. Although our east end towns as a whole has been very lucky the last two years with Hurricanes Sandy and Irene not making landfall on Long Island, the shores of East End and Long Island have suffered some major erosion and will inevitably continue to do so.
While CfAR respects the property owners along the shoreline and their rights to restore and protect their property, we ...more
By citizensforaccessrights (3), east hampton on Feb 1, 13 3:10 PM