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Dec 9, 2010 3:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Probes Quogue Village Over Oceanfront Development

Dec 9, 2010 3:11 PM

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has informed the Village of Quogue that it might revoke its authority to regulate building along the village’s oceanfront, because Quogue’s Zoning Board of Appeals has repeatedly failed to abide by state laws put in place to protect the coastline.

Citing examples dating back to 2006, where permits were issued by Quogue’s zoning board to numerous homeowners that allowed large expansions or the new construction of houses near or entirely within the oceanfront dune system—where little or no additional development should have been permitted—the DEC has accused the village of having wholly dismissed nearly every criteria of the state’s Coastal Erosion Hazard Area, or CEHA, laws. Those laws are intended to protect natural sand dunes along the ocean that serve as a protective buffer for the barrier islands and mainland during severe storms.

In one particularly damning section of a report sent to Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorious last month, DEC Assistant Commissioner James M. Tierney said the village zoning board appears to have decided on its own that state-issued maps outlining sensitive dune areas were wrong and effectively ignored them. The report also goes on to accuse the ZBA and its coastal erosion hazard administrator, Village Building Inspector Edward Wolfersdorf, of ignoring application and review protocols for any work proposed in those areas, and of repeatedly approving or allowing major construction projects to be done where only minor ones should have been permitted.

“Either resulting from lack of compliance inspections, lack of enforcement, incomplete review, improper approvals or a combination of these program shortcomings, existing houses are being gutted and replaced piece by piece in order to construct new homes in the CEHA jurisdiction without undergoing the proper variance application review,” one of several scathing sections in Mr. Tierney’s report reads.

Mr. Sartorious said this week that he does not believe his zoning board was maliciously ignoring state law, but rather he thinks a lack of guidance by the state when the village was drafting its CEHA codes a decade earlier might have led to ambiguities in the village code that the zoning board applied incorrectly. While the state law dates back to 1981, the villages of Quogue and Southampton were the first two local municipalities to implement their own programs. Both did so in 1989.

“We are not a maverick village that is running around ignoring the coastal erosion codes, which is what this appears to paint us as,” Mr. Sartorious said. “If we’ve made mistakes, we’ve made mistakes in good faith. It may have just been in interpreting our own code, which differs from the state’s model code.”

T. David Mullen, a member of Quogue Village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and a former longtime chairman of the board, did not return a call this week.

Mr. Sartorious said the village hopes to maintain its regulatory authority along its coastline and is preparing a response to the state. The village was supposed to have replied within 15 days of receipt of Mr. Tierney’s letter, which was received on November 15, but asked for more time, a request that the DEC has not officially granted. Mr. Sartorious said he is now evaluating the issue and hoped to be ready to respond to the state soon.

Based on visits to construction sites by DEC officials and the review of zoning board applications, the state has identified at least a dozen properties along the Quogue oceanfront that benefitted from the village regulators’ apparent rubber-stamping of applications when the property owners in question should have been denied or limited, or forced to relocate their houses away from the primary dune.

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By CC Barbie (7), Westhampton Beach on Dec 9, 10 12:09 PM
The Village did nothing wrong. If anything those old beach houses should be raised and more oceanfront mansions built. The more mansions the lower the tax rate.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 10, 10 5:45 PM
And when these home are washed away who is going to pay for them? The taxpayers.
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Dec 11, 10 3:40 PM
Well built homes this size do not wash away-they are a tax paying asset.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 11, 10 5:44 PM
Busted... I love it!!! The Village did nothing wrong!? Well built homes don't wash away!? What are you smoking EastEnd68? Take a look at photos of the beach front after any strong storm over the past 50 years and you will see that you are completely wrong. I do agree with EastEnd68 about one thing though, all of those houses should be raised; and the land returned to public use as it should have always been. Also, the more taxes you collect the more the government will spend; that's been ...more
By Old School (22), Southampton on Dec 12, 10 10:03 AM
Spelling is important here. Do you mean "raised" as in elevated, or "razed" as in destroyed?

How will the land be returned to public use? Bought from the owners or simply confiscated? Can you flesh out your position a bit, please?
By VOS (1230), WHB on Dec 14, 10 11:18 PM
I used "raised" as a pun to EastEnd68's comment; meaning "razed." By returned to public use I mean just that. I know that my comment did not reflect a realistic possibility, but I do think that all of the development on Dune Road has been detrimental, especially from WHB to Moriches inlet. There is not one home in Quogue that has washed away since 1960 because of the jetties in Westhampton; another huge mistake.
By Old School (22), Southampton on Dec 17, 10 8:18 AM
There is not one home in Quogue that has washed away since 1960.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 12, 10 12:18 PM
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