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Court Won't Hear Appeal By Southampton Town Trustees

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Court Won't Hear Appeal By Southampton Town Trustees; Decision Further Muddies Water In Terms Of Board's Regulatory Authority

 

Cut and Pasted From The Southampton Press

 

 

It appears that the Southampton Town Trustees no longer have the right to oversee erosion control measures along the ocean, including the installation of hardened structures, within the town’s incorporated villages—a situation that leaves board members wondering if they now retain any regulatory authority at all within those municipalities.

 

The State Court of Appeals decided on January 7 not to entertain an appeal filed this fall by the Town Trustees, in response to an April 22, 2015, ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Peter H. Meyer stating that the board lacks the authority to approve or block the installation of erosion control structures—such as oversized buried sandbags—within individual villages.

 

“They didn’t want to hear our appeal,” said Trustee Scott Horowitz, who was elected to a second two-year term in November, about the State Court of Appeals. “We lost the ability to regulate hard structures.

 

“We hold an easement on the beaches dating back to the Dongan Patent,” he added, referring to the 330-year-old document that, among other things, entrusts the board to protect the town’s extensive waterfront.

 

The appeal was prompted by a series of lawsuits filed several years earlier by the villages of Quogue and West Hampton Dunes, as well as Albert Marine Inc., a contracting company hired by Quogue homeowners to install giant, oversized bags along the ocean to protect the shoreline following a series of damaging storms in 2011 without securing a permit from the Town Trustees. In his earlier ruling, Justice Meyer cited a 19th century state law that limited the authority of the Trustees when it came to land in Southampton Town, leaving them control over only fisheries, bay bottoms and activities that occurred in town waters.

 

That ruling overlooked how the Trustees have traditionally monitored the oceanfront—including the stretches that run within incorporated villages—and strongly objected to the installation of seawalls, bulkheads and other hardened structures that, they say, escalate erosion. It also stated that the Trustees have no lawful power to grant or deny permits with regards to the placement and grading of sand and soil near the water in Quogue and West Hampton Dunes villages, and should have no hand in the development, construction and maintenance as it pertains to the maintaining the shoreline within the incorporated villages.

 

That decision did acknowledge that the public easement still exists along the oceanfront, and that the right to access it should not be blocked. But it also noted that the Trustees hold no authority to impose any regulations within the easement area—other than to regulate the gathering of natural resources, like fish and seaweed.

 

“They have no jurisdiction—they’ve lost it all,” Gary Vegliante, the longtime mayor of the tiny oceanfront Village of West Hampton Dunes, when reached on Tuesday and asked about the court’s refusal to hear the Trustees’ appeal.

 

“For everyone in Southampton Town, this is a loss to the Trustees, because it removes jurisdiction to the beaches,” Mr. Vegliante added. “It’s one of the most devastating losses they’ve ever had. It’s a shame.”

 

He went on to say that, in his opinion, the Trustees should no longer be allowed to issue permits to those off-road enthusiasts who enjoy driving along the beach in incorporated villages, such as Coopers Beach in Southampton Village, stating again that they have lost all authority over the beaches within those municipalities.

 

Richard Cahn of Cahn & Cahn LLP in Huntington, the attorney representing the Town Trustees, confirmed Tuesday that the recent appeal denial muddies the water in terms of what regulatory authority his clients still retain.

 

Mr. Cahn, who said he expected to discuss the issue with the board during an executive session on Wednesday, said the Trustees appear to have limited options at this point. According to the attorney, they can attempt to clarify the extent of their regulatory authority on their own, ask a state lawmaker to step in and introduce legislation that attempts to better explain their powers, or challenge the decisions made by villages in court. 

 

Another option, he added, could be for the Trustees to press the authority issue and then be prepared to defend themselves assuming that they will be sued.

 

Mr. Cahn noted that those options will be discussed among the Trustees—as will the potential loss of some $50,000 in annual revenue that they now receive through the issuing of beach access permits—at the meeting. Mr. Vegliante has already hinted that his village is moving toward issuing their own beach access permits down the road, though nothing is yet in stone.

 

Both Town Trustees President Edward J. Warner Jr. and Trustee Eric Shultz declined to discuss the appeal denial when reached this week, directing all questions to their attorney, Mr. Cahn.

 

The court battle has been a complicated one. In 2012, the Town Trustees sued both Quogue and Albert Marine after the village and three of its residents—Paul Napoli, and Randi and Jeffrey Levine—placed rows of large sandbags along the eroded oceanfront near the Quogue Village Beach and two adjacent homes following severe erosion during winter storms in 2011.

 

The Trustees claimed that the installation of the protective barriers, which were buried under artificial dunes, was done without required Trustee-issued permits and violated their regulations on the types of protective measures that can be taken along the oceanfront. Both Quogue and Albert Marine filed a counter-suit, and West Hampton Dunes filed a companion suit, all charging that the Trustees lack authority to regulate activities along the oceanfront.

 

In February 2014, Justice Meyer ruled in the West Hampton Dunes case that the Trustees cannot regulate the beaches beyond controlling traditional activities that take place within the easement. In one of his earlier rulings in the Quogue case, he stated that the Trustees could, in fact, regulate activities outside the easement, and within the village, as a means of protecting it from being threatened by erosion caused by the activities of adjacent landowners.

 

 

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Well, this is no shocker to those who have been following this court case.

The trustee's best chance is to get the state legislature to pass a bill that broadens and defines their powers.

Thiele and LaValle should be all over this,that is if they support the trustee form of government. Which I doubt that they do.

 

The problem is that a lot of folks would like to see the last vanguard that has traditionally fought  to make sound beach related decisions,disappear.

Get rid of the trustees and you lose what was an independent  group of thinkers that thought about how to protect our beaches using environmentally safe methods.

Now you have paved the way for God only knows who will  come up with insane gadgets that will litter beaches and  in the long term change the natural flow of the oceans waters.

It makes you wonder if someone's been greasing a few palms?  Or maybe promising some votes and back room political support for other money making schemes.  

A lot of money can be made by trucking in sand and placing geo-bags and the like on beaches.

Not to mention that funds that might have gone to support the trustees and used towards maintenance are now in the hands of other deciders.

And of course--- the people who decide who can drive on the mentioned beaches,now get to decide how, how many and when to issue  beach driving permits.

 

From what i have seen from the meetings that I have personally attended, I don't believe for a minute that the South Hampton public will give up on this issue.

I believe that they will fight this hard and turn it around.  I attended two trustee meetings and saw hundreds of passionate  people fighting for access.

I hope that they prevail.

Edited by JettyGuy

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speaking of beach erosion.... get ready for saturday/sunday 

 

hope those beach home owners have waders

 

NE WINDS 25 TO 35 KT...INCREASING TO 30 TO 40 KT. SEAS 9 TO  14 FT...BUILDING TO 15 TO 20 FT. SNOW LIKELY IN THE MORNING.  RAIN. SNOW LIKELY THROUGH THE NIGHT. VSBY 1 TO 3 NM.  SUN  N WINDS 25 TO 30 KT...DIMINISHING TO 20 TO 25 KT IN THE  AFTERNOON...THEN DIMINISHING TO 15 TO 20 KT IN THE EVENING...

Edited by Sandflee

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the way i'm reading the article it sounds like the beach parking permit would have to go bye bye if the town cannot regulate along the oceanfront. this brings up an interesting conundrum for those that live in an area such as dune rd in bridgehampton where there are houses on both sides of the road. i guess those on the ocean side can do what they want to protect their home while those on the mecox bay side are screwed.  

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I understand the discussion of parking. If this is true.....why is there a continued charge for walking onto the beach in Long Beach? The fees in Long Beach and the Atlantic Beach Bridge are my (slowly I turned) topics! 

Cheers,

Mike

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Am I reading this correctly?  The ruling pertains to the trustees authority within incorporated villages.  To me, this suggests that regulation of beachfront structures and beach driving permits would fall to the incorporated villages, not the trustees.  I do not see how this could be a free for all where anything goes?  That said it would create tremendous variation within the town of southampton.  For example: Driving from the Shinnecock inlet East could potentially require four permits: County permit, then Southampton Village permit (Incorporated), trustee permit for the unincorporated towns, then Sagaponack village permit (incorporated) then back to the trustee permit... If this is correct it also suggests that each village/unincorporated village would have different rules on hardening the beach.  What a mess.

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I feel for the people of Southampton. The big money is talking. However, I can't support their effort to overcome the ruling as long as they refuse to share what they claim to be theirs. Namely the beaches. When, and if, they decide to reinstitute a non-resident permit ( At a reasonable fee ), then maybe they'll get my support. Until then .........................

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I feel for the people of Southampton. The big money is talking. However, I can't support their effort to overcome the ruling as long as they refuse to share what they claim to be theirs. Namely the beaches. When, and if, they decide to reinstitute a non-resident permit ( At a reasonable fee ), then maybe they'll get my support. Until then .........................

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 I do not see how this could be a free for all where anything goes? 

 

Its actually quite the opposite to a free for all.

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Not at all - I actually enjoy packing the kids in the rover and driving from south as far east as I can which I wont be able to do if the trustees can't sell me a permit.

 

Wonder what these two who got stuck today would do  :wave:post-17701-0-62180200-1453607769_thumb.jpg

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Who is that? Is that a government vehicle? Why would they have fluorescent outfits on? Did they air down? Do they have a permit? Are there still fish in your area? :)

 

caretaker who sent me pic says both were stuck. Of course my area fish  :rav:

Edited by TBD

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