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Mar 16, 2016 11:23 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Beach Access Advocacy Group Circulating Petition

Mar 16, 2016 11:35 AM

The Southampton Association for Beach Access, or SABA, is collecting signatures from those who support the Southampton Town Trustees and their fight to uphold their easement along the town’s beaches.

In just seven days, the Southampton-based organization has obtained more than 700 signatures on its petition, accessible at www.change.org, which asks that State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle back the Trustees in their quest to clarify their role in the town. Group leaders said they plan to forward their petition to the two state lawmakers in the coming months.

In their petition, SABA asks both lawmakers to support the Trustees “in their efforts to have their authority reinstated by challenging any law or amendment that would seek to limit that authority and by initiating a bill for a new law that would re-confirm and re-establish the authority of the Trustees.”

Mr. Thiele said he has been discussing such legislation with the Trustees for the past few weeks, and out of those meetings has come up with draft legislation that he will be ready to introduce once Mr. LaValle looks it over. Even so, the legislation may not be introduced until May or June, Mr. Thiele added.

The need for such legislation comes after several high-profile lawsuit losses for the Trustees, one of which stripped them of their authority over the easement along ocean-facing beaches in incorporated villages that they have controlled since the late 1600s. The law now states that the Trustees have the right to regulate only the collection of seaweed and fish within the easement, which spans from the high water mark to the crest of the dune, in incorporated villages, though traditional interpretations of the law have also allowed the Trustees to regulate the installation of hardened structures, such as seawalls and sandbags.

In response to those losses, the Trustees reworded some of the language in their 4x4 rules last month, handing over that responsibility to the incorporated villages. At the same time, they added language that reinforced their right to regulate driving on ocean beaches in the unincorporated parts of town.

John Kosciusko, the president of SABA, said he and the rest of the organization supports the Trustees, especially when it comes to legislation to clarify their role.

Lauren D’Italia of Southampton, a member of SABA, pointed out that those who have signed the petition were notified by Facebook and via word of mouth.

Town Trustee Scott Horowitz is pleased that his board has the support of SABA. “It really is a great thing,” he said. “I just hope the legislators recognize that we are different than other townships.”

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