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Aug 19, 2014 4:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Five Options On Table To Pay For Beach Nourishment Work In Quogue

Aug 20, 2014 1:20 PM

Five different options to fund the estimated $15 million beach nourishment project proposed for Quogue were finally presented to village taxpayers on Saturday morning, ending months of silence on the issue from those pushing hardest for the work.

Members of the Save the Dunes and Beaches Foundation (SDBF)—most of whom live on Dune Road and previously fronted the $100,000 in fees needed to file an application for the proposed work with the State Department of Environmental Conservation—shared their plans to finance the project during the third and final installment of their “Summer Seashell Series,” informational forums that, for the most part, have focused on the need for such a beach nourishment project in Quogue.

The first two presentations held earlier this summer discussed the science behind such projects and highlighted past examples where the work has been successful. But, at every turn, members of the group deflected questions about how they intend to pay for the work—which seeks to pump an estimated 1.1 million cubic yards of sand off the ocean floor to replenish and widen the village’s 2.7 miles of beachfront, work that has still not yet been officially endorsed by the Quogue Village Board.

On Saturday, the foundation was ready to answer the tougher questions.

Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist with the First Coastal Corporation in Westhampton Beach, explained to the estimated 40 people in attendance at Village Hall that there are five options currently on the table to finance the work. Those plans, he noted, range from the entire cost being shared equally by all 1,772 property owners in Quogue Village, to just the 105 oceanfront property owners along Dune Road taking on the entire cost.

If the Village Board ultimately decides to move forward with the work, and share its costs evenly with all property owners, a taxpayer whose home is now assessed at $1 million will pay an additional $572 in taxes annually for the next 10 years—or $5,720 total for the life of the bond. Currently, those whose properties are assessed at $1 million now pay about $5,187 in combined town and village taxes each year, with just over $2,100 going to the village.

If the cost of the project is only assigned to those Dune Road residents whose homes are on the Atlantic, they can expect to pay an additional $3,669 in taxes for every million of assessed value, or $18,345 annually on a home assessed at $5 million, which is the average for the area. Again, that increase would be in place for the next decade.

In the third scenario, the cost would be equally shared by all 192 property owners on both sides of Dune Road who, when combined, have homes with an average assessment of $2.25 million, according to Mr. Terchunian’s data. (There are 87 properties on the bay side of Dune Road in Quogue.) With that option, all of those homeowners can expect to pay about $2,316 for every $1 million in assessed value—meaning that the average taxpayer would shell out approximately $5,200 annually over the next 10 years to finance the project.

The fourth option also only involves Dune Road property owners but places a heavier burden on those who have homes on the Atlantic. Oceanfront homeowners would cover 80 percent of the cost, meaning they can expect to pay an additional $2,935 in annual taxes for every million in assessed value for the life of the bond, while the bayside homeowners would take on 20 percent of the burden and pay, on average, an additional $136 in taxes for every million in value.

The fifth and final scenario would divide the entire village into two taxing groups. One would place 80 percent of the financial burden on Dune Road residents, leaving the remaining 20 percent to be covered by those on the mainland. In this scenario, Dune Road taxpayers can expect to pay $1,853 for every million in assessed value on their properties, while those on the mainland would pay about $152 if their home is assessed at $1 million. Again, those increases would be in place for the next decade.

A similar beach nourishment project completed earlier this year in eastern Southampton Town, which cost $26 million and covered six miles of beachfront between Bridgehampton and Sagaponack Village, is being financed almost entirely by 122 oceanfront property owners, with Southampton Town chipping in a small amount. In that instance, homeowners voted to create a special taxing district, one that does not require financial assistance from those who live inland.

Noah Nadelson, the CEO of Munistat Financial Services in Port Jefferson, said on Saturday that a $15 million bond would cost village taxpayers between $1.7 million and $1.8 million per year if floated over a decade. He noted that the village is in good financial standing, and a bond like this would get “scooped right up” by investors.

Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius revealed after Saturday’s meeting that, if the Village Board ultimately decides to move forward with the work, members would not have to hold a public referendum before deciding which of the five options to pursue. The mayor said that New York State Village Law contains a clause that would allow the board to bypass such a referendum if a proposed project will “primarily benefit real property.”

Mr. Sartorius also noted that public hearing would be held before any final decisions are made in terms of financing the work. If the Village Board elects to bypass holding a public vote on the matter, residents can petition for a permissive referendum if 20 percent of them file a petition with Village Hall.

The village, however, does not intend to make any decisions until the DEC rules on the SDBF application, which is not expected until the early fall, according to Mr. Terchunian.

Mr. Sartorius also noted that the village has no intention of starting such a project this year. Mr. Terchunian later added that such projects can only be completed between October 1 and March 31, citing DEC regulations.

Those in attendance on Saturday, meanwhile, said they walked out of the meeting with a better understanding of Quogue’s needs, though most remained wary of the associated costs.

Nazee Moinian, who owns a home on the ocean side of Dune Road, said she walked away from the meeting with a greater sense of urgency to get some type of beach nourishment done. “I feel the urgent need to act on this so we can prevent a disaster,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with the cost if it is equally distributed among taxpayers.”

Others, however, said they still need time to process the mounds of information shared with them over the past few months. Lynn Joyce, who also owns property on the ocean side of Dune Road, said she got a lot out of Saturday’s meeting before adding that “it has to sink in a bit.”

Karen and Jack McWhorter, who have lived on the village’s mainland since 1978, said afterward that they better understood the scope of the project and its long-term implications, such as the continued maintenance of the beach after the 10 years. “We have to figure out where to go from here,” Ms. McWhorter said, later adding that both she and her husband are not yet convinced that they should be asked to take on the same burden as those who live a few feet from the ocean.

At the start of Saturday’s meeting Mr. Terchunian recapped the proposed project, noting that revised estimates suggest that the work, if approved, would widen the village’s entire stretch of beach by about 75 feet—or 15 feet more than previously anticipated. He also noted that about two-thirds of Quogue falls within the floodplain and, as a result, is also vulnerable to flooding.

According to his research, Quogue’s beaches lose approximately 60,000 cubic yards of sand per year. He said the project, which will take about two months to complete, is worth the investment and pointed to the recent success of the beach rebuilding work in eastern Southampton town.

“The natural dune line has not recovered from Hurricane Sandy,” Mr. Terchunian said, referring to the beaches in Quogue. “What happened in the east will happen here. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

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