The East Hampton Town Board voted last Thursday to require town residents to renew beach driving permits roughly every five years — or on any year ending in a “0” or “5” — with Councilman David Lys voting against the resolution, citing ongoing litigation regarding beach access near Napeague Lane in Amagansett.
The board was unanimous in adopting a sister resolution Thursday night, creating a similar schedule for resident beach parking stickers, which will also have to be renewed every five years.
Prior to this change in town code, residents in East Hampton Town were not required to renew either parking or beach driving permits and stickers, which are free. In Southampton Town and East Hampton Village, those permits and stickers must be purchased every year.
During a public hearing on changes to both sections of the code, Diane McNally, a former East Hampton Town Trustee for 28 years, expressed concerns about the changes to the code. She cautioned the board that should it decide to eventually charge for resident parking permits, history has shown that would be an unpopular decision.
Ms. McNally noted the code allows the board to set a fee “from time to time.” Under the language in the resident parking permit section, the word “free” is removed from part of the resident permit language in the legislation adopted Thursday night. That said, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc stressed the town board had no desire to start charging for resident parking.
“I will emphatically state we have no intention to charge residents for fees for parking or beach driving,” he said.
“I am sure there are a lot of constituents who will be happy to hear that,” said Ms. McNally, “tied into the fact that access on our beaches and to our beaches is one of the few remaining advantages residents have. There is no fee attached to it. They can get there.”
“It is something we all cherish,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc.
Like Mr. Lys, Ms. McNally urged the board to consider holding off on any changes to the code regarding beach driving until an appeal of a lawsuit brought by a group of Amagansett homeowners in what is often referred to as “Beachhampton” is adjudicated.
Those homeowners have opposed the town trustees’ allowance of four-wheel drive vehicles on the beach there, sometimes referred to as “Truck Beach,” and argued they had title to a portion of the beach — claims that were dismissed in 2016 and are now being reviewed under the state’s appellate court.
“I came this evening because I want to seriously ask you not to change this code right now,” said Ms. McNally. “As you know, we have been through a very lengthy and very expensive lawsuit in regard to a section of ocean beach. We were actually very successful and yet now it is being appealed.”
Ms. McNally said it was a major concession for the town trustees to accept the town board’s decision to require permits for beach driving. She questioned whether or not permits being kept by non-residents who purchase a resident’s vehicle with a sticker was truly an issue.
“If this is a serious problem, let’s make that documentation — the number of fines — public and see what kind of problem it really is,” she said.
While Mr. Lys cast the lone “nay” in a 4-1 vote regarding changes to the beach driving permit process, the town board was unanimous in approving changes to the resident parking permit section of the code.
The new laws will go into effect for town residents this summer, with existing resident permit carriers required to renew in 2020.
Non-resident beach parking permits remain available on an annual basis for $375; and under the code, hotel and motel property owners or management can still purchase one transferable permit per unit for transient guests for $75 apiece. Condominium properties with more than four units also have the ability to apply for the same permit; however, they will be allowed only one per unit on a property and if a residential parking permit has already been granted for a unit, it will no longer be eligible for the commercial parking permit.
Renters of single- or multi- family homes are not eligible for resident or commercial lodging permits, but can purchase the non-resident parking sticker for one year.