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Jun 2, 2010 9:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sagaponack and Bridgehampton residents consider an erosion control district

Jun 2, 2010 9:29 AM

Homeowners in Bridgehampton, Water Mill and Sagaponack will be canvassing their neighbors this summer to find out if they’re interested in establishing quasi-public agencies that levy taxes and use the funds for erosion control measures.

The agencies, called erosion control districts, are led by advisory committees, set their own tax rates, and decide what they would like to spend their money on, Southampton Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea explained at a meeting on the matter held Friday at Town Hall. About 20 homeowners from the stretch of shoreline between Water Mill and Sagaponack—which has a long history of erosion—and Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Assistant Town Attorney Kathleen Murray and coastal geologist Aram Terchunian were at the meeting.

“The goal is to give you a bigger say in dune and beach management,” Mr. Shea told the group. “We’re all impacted by erosion.”

An erosion control district currently exists in Hampton Bays and is called the Tiana Beach Erosion Control District. The chairman of the advisory board governing it, Bob Leo, and a member of the board, Charlie McGlone, emphasized that the district has helped them build up their beach. The committee has voted to install rows of dune fencing, which serve to build up sand, and recently heard from the federal government that they could be receiving up to $70,000 to replace fencing damaged in the spring’s nor’easters.

Jack Rosen, a resident of Bridgehampton, and Edith Lutnick, a resident of Sagaponack, were curious about how creating an erosion control district could bring in money from the federal government.

Mr. Terchunian explained that when he and state officials head to Washington to solicit federal beach renourishment money, they’re competing with other states—like Maine and many on the West Coast—who are making the same entreaties. The only difference is that many of those other states already have money in their coffers specifically for beach renourishment. An erosion control district would level the playing field.

Ms. Murray detailed the process of setting up a district. She said if the residents decide to move forward with the district, the Town Board will push forward a resolution authorizing the creation of a map detailing the boundaries of each district. At that point, town officials will work the numbers to determine how much an erosion tax will cost a home assessed at about $500,000, she explained. The last time the Tiana Beach district taxed itself, in 2005-06, the rate was 0.9090 per $1,000 of assessed value, and the district collected a total of $100,005 for erosion control measures. On a home valued at $500,000, a tax rate of 0.9090 represents about $450 in taxes.

Ms. Murray added that the resolution authorizing the creation of a map is subject to a permissive referendum, meaning that if either 100 people or 5 percent of the homeowners in the proposed district write letters of opposition to the town clerk, a public vote on the matter must be held.

Once the maps are made, the Town Board holds public hearings on the district, Ms. Murray said. Once the hearings are closed, the Town Board passes a resolution to create the district. That final resolution is also subject to the permissive referendum process, Ms. Murray said. She emphasized that it is much more likely people will band together against the district at the final resolution.

The Tiana Beach Erosion Control District was established in two and half months, Ms. Murray noted.

Gary Stillman, a Sagaponack oceanfront property owner, said there are 20 people who favor the district in the village.

Sagaponack had an erosion control district before it incorporated in 2005. But village residents voted to disband it about a year later, disgruntled that the rules for that district did not allow them to control the tax rate. The proposed district gives homeowners tax rate control.

Bridgehampton resident David Lederman speculated that Water Mill residents will never participate in the district because many of them have steel bulkheading in front of their properties.

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Absolutely brilliant, millionaires creating a special taxing district to draw money from the federal cash cow(the little people). I don't understand how the rest of us "little" people or "peons" should be paying to maintain their million dollar homes that they know will get hammered during a nor'easter.
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Jun 3, 10 11:40 PM