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Aug 31, 2012 5:38 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Beach Rebuilding Project Will Go To Voters In Affected Areas Of Oceanfront Southampton Town

Sep 5, 2012 11:04 AM

Supporters of an ambitious plan to reconstruct a six-mile stretch of ocean beach from Water Mill to Sagaponack say that the vast majority of the property owners within the project’s reach see the pressing need to restore the once broad beaches and are willing to ante up the lion’s share of the nearly $24 million it will cost to get it done.

That will be important, because Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said at a hearing on the proposal last Thursday evening, August 30, that if the Town Board approves the project later this month as expected, it will call for a referendum of support among the 125 property owners who will be asked to foot the bill. The matter would have been subject to a permissive referendum, whereby opponents could have petitioned for a public vote, but the board instead will go directly to the public for approval.

A few of those property owners, most notably the family of Sagaponack farming scion John C. White and officials of The Bridgehampton Club, have raised issues of fairness with the formulas used to compute the taxes each property owner must pay for 10 years to fund the work, if it goes forward. In both instances, the argument of the property owner is that they have signed away their rights to develop the property for the potentially giant profits of residential development. In the case of the club, the development rights were donated in 1995, and in the Whites’ case, the development rights to the farm field were sold for millions of dollars from the town’s Community Preservation Fund. Therefore, they argue, they have less to protect than some of the owners of homes worth tens of millions of dollars that surround them.

The Whites’ condition is seen largely in a sympathetic light by those supporting the project, and town officials are working to try to find a way for the Whites to free themselves from the more than $60,000 per year they would have to pay in new taxes. The club’s situation is looked upon with less compassion, partly because the club and it’s membership are seen as able to bear the financial burden, and partly because the beach is a considerable asset to the club and available for substantial improvements should the club members choose to expand its facilities.

The beach rebuilding project proposal calls for some 2.5 million tons of offshore sand to be pumped onto beaches from Flying Point Beach in Water Mill to the East Hampton Town line in Sagaponack Village. The project would be funded by bonds issued by the town and repaid over 10 years, with the taxes levied on the property owners. The town, which owns five public beaches in the project reach, would pay about 11 percent, or around $3 million.

Most of those who have voiced objections to the project—just a half dozen or so homeowners in total, the organizers of the effort claim—are homeowners who say the beach and dunes in front of their properties is wide enough to protect their homes from storms, and they don’t want to pay to protect others’ property.

But in the case of the Bridgehampton Club and the White family, the issue is the formulas used to calculate each property owner’s tax burden.

In Bridgehampton, the tax is calculated solely according to linear footage of beachfront of each property: about $90 per foot, per year. The average property in Bridgehampton has about 150 feet of frontage.

The Bridgehampton Club, which owns 13 acres of land and 579 feet of beachfront just to the west of Ocean Road in Bridgehampton, is on the hook for a little more than $498,000 over 10 years, should the project be approved as proposed. Bridgehampton Surf & Tennis, just up the road, has about 120 feet more frontage and will pay about $100,000 more over the life of the loans.

But The Bridgehampton Club’s property is assessed at just $1.2 million because of the easements barring development on its grounds that came with the donation of development rights, while the very similarly sized Surf & Tennis property is assessed at $35 million. That disparity is why the club says the tax formula is unfair—and also why the erosion district organizers say it is the only fair way to proceed.

“We jumped through the corporate hoops and … we gave the land to Peconic Land Trust,” former club President Otis Pearsall said from the airy card room of the club’s tiny, covered pavilion near the ocean hidden behind a wall of heavily vegetated dunes.

“Is this going to bankrupt anybody? No,” current club President John Millard added, acknowledging that the cost of the project would raise the annual fees for the club’s 270 members, which already are about $5,000 per year, by only about $150. “But that’s not the point we’re making. The point we’re making is that we want to be treated fairly.”

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Article states:

"The town, which owns five public beaches in the project reach, would pay about 11 percent, or around $3 million."

By the Town, you mean the taxpayers. It would be added to our tax bills for us to pay back - it's not like it's going out of some special fund that already exists.

Funny how supportive this article is of the project and how it neglects to mention that the actual taxpayers will be on the hook for that $3 million.

Who ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 31, 12 8:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
The internet is where you get the real news. The Southampton Press is just a tool for looking at news do searchs of subject and you will find the real information. No wonder readership slips every year.
The real question is why are taxpayers paying any of this, The beachs will come and go no sand on the beach will reverse erosion for more than a short time. By the way the same people that want taxpayers to contribute want us not to use the shoreline and some how believe they own the watefront. ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 31, 12 9:03 PM
2 members liked this comment
Couldn't agree with you more! Any funding by these folks will further their insistence that we should not be allowed to use "their" beaches. No, no, no to this proposal. Anyone who buys waterfront property must be prepared to take the risks that go along with it. Let nature take its course.
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Aug 31, 12 10:02 PM
2 members liked this comment
I AGREE, vote NO!!!
By tookatz (83), westhampton beach on Sep 1, 12 12:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
How is this welfare for the "rich", when they will be paying 89% of the bill for the project?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 1, 12 3:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe you noticed we are out of money and putting another 3 million of debt on is irresponsible. What happens when the sand washes away do you think these landowners will still pay their assessment? Why do I see the same oceanfront experts at these meetings who were famous for non working shoreline structures. These experts bought us the concrete jacks, fabric sand structures and steel sheathing which have all failed. Now they think sand will stop the flow of the ocean. Maybe these experts should ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 1, 12 5:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
I did notice, I just wanted to hear the reasoning behind the statement.

By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 2, 12 7:21 AM
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 1, 12 3:58 AM
"Welfare For The Rich" is not strong enough!

"P1zzing Into the Wind" is better.

"Band Aids Delude?"

This replenishment project is going to fail eventually, and everyone should read the article posted by Mr. Z. It is surprising that the editors have omitted a link above to ensure that readers hear both sides of this issue. Hopefully nepotism is not the reason for the omission.

The Army Corps of Engineers has failed to stabilize beaches and harbors all over the ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 1, 12 6:43 AM
If beachfront property owners pay the ENTIRE cost, and if the project passes environmental scrutiny, and if they provide ONLY the money and NO direction, Mazel tov. Otherwise, forget it.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Sep 1, 12 12:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Plus post a bond and indemnification agreement/surety to reimburse SH Town (and all other governmental agencies which sign off on this) for all ultimate costs of litigation concerning this Boondoggle, including attorneys fees, punitive damages and so forth.

If the private homeowners really want to protect THEIR property, let them pony up the dollars.

I doubt if they have deep enough pockets to cover ALL of the costs incl. those listed above.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 1, 12 12:38 PM
What is interesting is that FEMA expended $14.5 billion to rebuild levies around New Orleans. The beach in Westhampton Dunes has a 30 year guarantee from Army Corp that will rebuild the dunes and beach, both at no cost to the local taxpayer. So why are we paying for this?
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Sep 1, 12 2:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thanks NSC - the simple answer would be ... ask Tim Bishop!! And follow the money for his and ATH's "supporters" - including this newspaper .... hmmmm
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 1, 12 5:18 PM
2 members liked this comment
Look closely at this. ATH is planning to put every available penny the town has into this one project to please a few beachfront homeowners, if it passes. The question is: Why? There will be nothing left for much needed repairs and improvements during the same fiscal year, so don't look for any. When the sand washes away, and it will, the way the deal is set up FEMA will be on the hook to replenish the beach. Who pays for FEMA's money? We, the taxpayers. This is a bad idea all the way around.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Sep 1, 12 11:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
These homeowners are scamming taxpayers, because the 2.5 million tons of sand would cost over 50 million just too buy from a sand pit. That doesn't include the installation of the sand. They want to take a mineral from the US taxpayers and pay zero for it and even have the local taxpayer pay for park of it. It is an idea where not one politician has even asked about the implications of taking this sand from the ocean floor or who owns it. If they can pay 30 million for a house let them go to the ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 2, 12 12:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
I thought these erosion control districts were formed by oceanfront prop owners who would agree to pay extra taxes each year, which would go into a beach replentishment fund. They would then draw on these funds to purchase sand to build "dunes". How did this evolve into a taxpayer funded (11%) mandate? And only a few property owners will be allowed to vote on an issue which we will all have to pay for??!!. No sir I don't like this one bit; but I wont be allowed to vote my opinion.
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Sep 3, 12 6:57 AM
2 members liked this comment
I couldn't agree more, why should taxpayers have to pay one cent to protect the beaches? It's not like they ever go to the beach, or walk their dogs on the beach, or swim, or fish, or drive their trucks......... Oh, wait......
By SusanM (1), Bridgehampton on Sep 3, 12 8:24 AM
bridgehampton huh? let me guess . . . you are one of the select few. no I DONT think the taxpayers should pay for sand to protect YOUR multi million dollar house. You want to live on the ocean, you have to deal with the ocean. The beaches are just fine when left alone, sand comes and goes, dunes move- YOUR problem is that you can't move your house. Your problem, not mine.
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Sep 3, 12 7:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
we are not protecting the beaches. We are protecting the houses.
By clammer (23), hampton bays on Sep 3, 12 8:38 AM
4 members liked this comment
category 1 direct hit will undo anything we do. category 2 - don't even want to think about it. the swell leading into this weekend is probably going to do some serious damage. the best thing about all this will be the massive sandbars formed by all the sand we are paying millions to move. didn't they dig up a bunch of sand from mecox bay last year and dump it at mecox? and isnt that beach pretty much the same? a more worthwhile project might be to find and dig out all the rusty metal posts ...more
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Sep 3, 12 8:49 AM
Any rusty posts you find are from leftover snowfencing which was put in place to help stabilize the dunes. The fact that the fence post is buried is proof that it works.

The Town's plover patrol removes the fencing as soon as the birds have fledged - the County leaves theirs up all year but it's set back quite far from the ocean.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 3, 12 11:01 AM
Lots of those posts have been washed away from private properties which for many years have been installing snow fences in front of their houses to try to catch and hold sand. The ocean takes what it wants.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Sep 3, 12 12:00 PM
I read an article on another site about doing the opposite. Quogue is scaping huge amounts sand off the beach and building dunes with it. This group wants to add sand to the beach. Seems adding sand might be more productive than removing it, and essentially lowering the beach?
By G (342), Southampton on Sep 4, 12 8:55 AM
There are always expenditures in a budget that some people don't benefit from. The fact that the homeowenrs and businesses benefiting from this project will directly pay 89%. The other 11% will be spread over all taxpayers in the town. That seems fair, I'm sure that there are at least 11% of the current budget items that these people could do without. Why haven't they tried to get federal assiatance with this project?
By Walt (292), Southampton on Sep 6, 12 9:50 AM
good point however with the state of the towns finances I think this money would be better spent elsewhere
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Sep 8, 12 6:14 AM
Any idiot that thinks they are going to stop the ocean erosion is an idiot. Go to Coopers Beach they are missing about 75 ft of beach today due to a small storm. Can you imagine the jack asses on the beach after the project is done and the sand gets washed away. They will sue the town and stick us with the bill. No thanks let them protect their own houses!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 8, 12 5:43 PM
I walk the beach at Ocean Road every day and have seen the beach go to my walking just under dunes to 100 plus feet of sand to the water. Man cannot stop mother nature or the ocean and to spend the money is like pee in the wind. won't work but temporarily. If the owners of these houses had half a brain they would look back to the 70's when several houses along Surfside went into the ocean and even back inthe 60's when several Dune Road houses where lost. Rember history always repeats itself.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Sep 9, 12 7:14 PM
How about a tax district for airport users? Sounds good to me.
By Amelia Airport (48), East Hampton on Sep 14, 12 3:52 PM