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Story - News

Feb 2, 2013 7:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Oceanfront Residents Approve $25 Million Beach Rebuild

Feb 6, 2013 11:10 AM

More than 100 oceanfront homeowners in Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack on Saturday voted to move forward with plans for Southampton Town to borrow $25 million for the restoration of six miles of severely eroded ocean beach, with the homeowners picking up the lion’s share of the tab.

When the votes were tallied on Saturday evening by Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer and Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray, 75 ballots had been cast in favor of the project and 49 were against—a considerably closer split than the landslide of support some proponents of the project had predicted.

The project, which will pump 2.5 million tons of sand from natural supplies on the ocean bottom a mile offshore, will double the width of the beach stretching from Flying Point to the East Hampton Town border. The bulk of the sand will actually be placed beyond the surf line, creating a more gradual slope leading to the visible beach, to dampen the erosive effects of storm waves. The project will not directly rebuild decimated dune systems but engineers have said that having the broad sand beach will help dunes rebuild naturally on their own.

A total of 124 of the 181 residents of two special taxing districts eligible to cast ballots in this week’s referendum did so—68 from the Bridgehampton-Water Mill taxing district, and 56 from the Sagaponack district. Just 29 people voted in person at Town Hall on Saturday—95 absentee ballots were submitted to the clerk’s office prior to the weekend vote. Polls were open only to residents of the two beach erosion control districts specially created, also by referendum, to pay for the beach rebuilding.

Project organizers said this week that they think the higher-than-expected number of “nay” votes appeared to be due largely to a last-minute campaign by some individuals to derail the project, hoping that federal disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Sandy could instead be employed to fund a similar beach rebuilding project.

“There were one or two homeowners who felt the project made sense but that with all the Sandy aid floating around, the federal government would pay for it,” said Jeff Lignelli, one of the Bridgehampton homeowners who spearheaded the push for the project. “The feds were never going to pay for this. We’re working with Senator [Charles] Schumer and [U.S. Representative] Tim Bishop to make sure we get our fair share if there is money, but this project is the best option that will be available for our area.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who has been a strident supporter of the primarily privately funded project, noted that a federal report on recommended ways to protect eastern Long Island’s beaches, which is expected to be used to plan beach rebuilding after Sandy, recommends very little such work east of Shinnecock Inlet—indicating that federal funding of a beach rebuild would be unlikely.

With Saturday’s approval, the town will now be cleared to bond for the $25 million cost of the project. The bond will be paid back over the next 10 years through a special tax levied on only the oceanfront homeowners who live along the stretch of beach to be rebuilt. The amount of annual tax each property owner will pay varies based on the linear footage of oceanfront and, for residents of Sagaponack only, the property’s assessed value. Some homeowners will pay barely more than $1,000 a year, while others will pay more than $100,000. The largest single bill will go to Sagaponack resident Ira Rennert, who will pay more than $200,000 in special tax each year and more than $2 million over the life of the bond.

The town, which owns five properties within the project’s reach, will contribute $1.5 million toward the overall cost, drawn from reserved funds from parks fees charged to developers.

Of the $25 million total allotted to the project, some $17.5 million is expected to be spent on the actual pumping of sand onto the beach, according to a prospectus of the work. About $4 million will go to the costs of setting up and breaking down the project; $1.2 million for the design and engineering work done by the project consultants, Coastal Science & Engineering of South Carolina and First Coastal Corporation of Westhampton Beach; $1 million for permits and contingencies; and $1.3 million for debt service over the 10-year life of the bonds.

The final cost, estimates of which were increased by about $2.5 million following Sandy, could come in below projections if helped along by good weather or an early project start date. The earlier in the year the project can get under way, the less it will cost, because of the better chance of calm weather in the mid and late summer. As the fall wears on, dredging companies must account for more down time due to rough seas. “It’s 20 percent cheaper if we start on September 1 instead of November 15, and it’s 30 percent cheaper if we start in the summer,” Mr. Lignelli said. “We have to weigh the costs and benefits and try to get our arms around that.”

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"Organizers and the town have said the work could be begin as early as late May or June, but more likely will take place after Labor Day."

They're full of baloney... work cannot start until after Labor Day because of Piping Plovers and Least Terns which will be nesting. Probably told the residents it could maybe happen that soon though to get additional support for continued lining of Arams pocket.

I'm surprised/happy to see so many said "no" but it's a shame they didn't have ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 2, 13 8:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
As will be explained further in this week's story, Nature, the town and project organizers have told me they are hoping they will be able to get waivers from the seasonal dredging and beach work restrictions. If you'll recall, the WHD project back in 1995 was done in summer. They can get around the various restrictions by either proving that there will not be a conflict or by accommodating for it. For example, in WHD I believe they had plover observers on hand throughout the project, to make sure ...more
By Michael Wright (25), Southampton on Feb 4, 13 12:45 PM
Thank you for the detailed response, it shows you've done some work. I agree that in theory they could get a waiver - but that's a large swath of beachfront and there are significant plover/tern nests/colonies along that stretch in addition to the rare plants. I'll be shocked if it's allowed to occur.

Now that I have your attention - can you PLEASE let us know how much Aram is getting paid for this? Please??
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 4, 13 12:53 PM
After Labor Day the plovers are not the obstacle, it's this beach plant, the odd name of which keeps escaping me.

It just so happens that a break down of some of the costs for the project, including the amount being paid to the consultants, is also in this week's paper, on newstands Wednesday night at 7pm...

By Michael Wright (25), Southampton on Feb 5, 13 7:57 PM
Thank you - I'll take that as a victory.

And the plant you are referring to is seabeach amaranth. There's also seabeach knotweed - but that's not a federally endangered species.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 6, 13 7:39 AM
Why not give some money to the food pantries in Southampton and Riverhead. They are almost out of food and it's tax deductible.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Feb 2, 13 8:41 PM
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 2, 13 9:55 PM
He means it would most likely be put to better use, as it were.

Unless of course, as always I could be mistaken...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Feb 4, 13 7:17 PM
What's planned along these lines for eroded beaches stretching from
Southampton to Westhampton, and further West?
By Wilhelmus Bryan (4), Quogue on Feb 2, 13 10:47 PM
Dont worry- all that sand that the rich people put on their beaches will be pushed west by mother nature. The natural movement of sand from east to west along the shoreline will continue. "Thurston darling-- all of our premium sand is being washed down to the hovels of the COMMON people !!"
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Feb 3, 13 7:25 AM
4 members liked this comment
Of course the oceanfront home owners approved it. It benefits them. However, there's a huge catch for the rest of us who were allowed no say. Once all the replenished sand washes away - and it will - the deal is FEMA has to pay to replace it. That means every taxpayer in America will be on the hook to pay for replacing their sand. Is that fair? Not in my book. The seas are rising, beaches and dunes are moving landward, oceanfront houses are in the way - why should the rest of us be forced to pay ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Feb 3, 13 10:58 AM
People live along the coast and have a right to protect their homes so get over it .
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Feb 3, 13 3:33 PM
So glad to learn that the "Summer Residents" are above the laws of Humankind and Nature!

No wonder we have all been confused about the purposes of our lives . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 4, 13 8:11 AM
2 members liked this comment
hey - Ira Rennert takes offense to that! He lives YEAR ROUND in his 100,000 square foot home.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 4, 13 9:40 AM
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, ...more
By citizensforaccessrights (3), east hampton on Feb 3, 13 11:03 AM
and if a homeowner walks away from his/her property after the house (and property) floats off to portugal, who continues to pay the loan ?
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Feb 3, 13 4:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree--let's let our beautiful, world famous sand beaches just wash away.
We have many other amenities to encourage wealthy people to spend millions of dollars on second homes....like K-Mart and Starbucks...and don't forget the Poxabogue Golf Course....
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Feb 3, 13 6:11 PM
and how do you suggest we stop the ocean from washing away the sand, eh ? Take the ocean to court ?
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Feb 3, 13 8:17 PM
If wealthy people want to shake a few million loose to provide a summer or two of sand for my family to enjoy, instead of parking the funds in the Caymen Islands I'm all for it. Even the Town's contribution came from private developer park fees.
What are we debating here???
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Feb 4, 13 8:18 AM
Two quick thoughts.

First the IRS Code provides incentive for the wealthy to make charitable contributions. Not all those giving are doing so out of altruism, wise accountants are advising them of how much they safe by giving. Just saying.

Second, many other nations maintain their coastlines in common ownership for all their population. You know sort of Yellowstone National Park for the coastlines. Again just saying.

Oh yes global warming, melting polar ice. Even ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Feb 4, 13 8:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Black soot.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Feb 4, 13 8:58 PM
Tiger - guess you haven't read the dongan patent lately huh?

And no one ever accused the wealthy of being altruistic!
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 4, 13 9:14 PM
People who've put in a lot of work studying this subject agree that beach renourishment is more salutary than structural solutions like groins, sea walls, revetments, etc., but it's a never-ending thing. This point seems to be lost on the folks in the erosion control district, the Army Engineers, and Southampton Town government, but it's really a very old story. There was this guy named Sisyphus . . . . check it out if that doesn't ring a bell.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 8, 13 12:25 AM
vote was very off key in that 200 votes were available and only 75 for and 49 against. seems funny property owners would take on this kind of debt with not a vasy majority voting for it. something is up there and down the road they will claim all the beaches as their own.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Feb 10, 13 5:48 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 19, 13 8:09 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 19, 13 8:11 AM
Whoops, "was." Did this result in any increases?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 19, 13 8:14 AM
Did the Town Board increase the budget for this at the special meeting on 2/7?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 19, 13 10:10 AM
No matter who pays for the beaches to be re-built, we the residents of Southampton Town have the right to access and use them. This right is granted to us by the Dongan Patent.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 19, 13 8:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
Ditto to bigfresh. Unfortunately, the possibly of lawsuits by those paying the special tax assessment will,increase IMO, as they seek to protect "their" new dunes.

The Dongan Patent applies to the beach up to the normal high tide mark, right? Suppose the newly filled dunes move this high tide mark seaward a lot?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 19, 13 8:57 AM
Who then "owns" the new dune?

Bring in the lawyers!

Did you hear the one about the doctor, rabbi, and lawyer arguing over a milk cow?

Punch line: while the other two were arguing over the cow's ownership, the lawyer was milking furiously!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 19, 13 9:01 AM