On the East End, where the type of beach sticker on your car window is almost as important as the nameplate on the grille, some residents of Sag Harbor might feel as though they have been forced to trade in their Audis for Oldsmobiles.
That’s because a little known, but longstanding tradition that allowed residents who live on the East Hampton side of Sag Harbor Village to buy Southampton Town beach parking permits at Long Beach has come to an end.
Starting this year, those village residents will still be eligible for a special permit that allows them to park only at Long Beach at a cost of $40, the same as a regular town resident pass. But if they want to use other town beaches, they will have to ante up for a nonresident permit at the price of $360, which is discounted $40 from the regular $400 fee.
The change in policy had its genesis last fall when, during a Town Board discussion of beach access, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman questioned why village residents who did not live in Southampton Town and do not pay town taxes were allowed to use Southampton beaches at the expense of town taxpayers.
The answer, according to Kristen Doulos, the town’s director of parks and recreation, is that in 1949 when the Foster family donated the land that is now officially named Clifford J. Foster Memorial Beach, but more commonly referred to by the vernacular Long Beach, they included a stipulation in the deed requiring that village residents be given the same access to it as other town residents for perpetuity.
In fact, a memorial plaque on a boulder near the restrooms states that the beach was given“for use of the people of the Town of Southampton and the Village of Sag Harbor.”
For many years, the easiest way to assure that all village residents enjoyed equal access to the beach, according to Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, who lives in North Haven, was to simply let those residents who live on the East Hampton side of the village buy Southampton Town beach passes just like other residents. The problem with that solution, he added, is those passes give them access “to every other town beach” without sharing in the costs of staffing those beaches with lifeguards, parking lot attendants, or paying for cleanup and maintenance. “And that is expensive,” he added.
At least one village resident has gotten his dander up over the new program. Ed Deyermond, a former village mayor, trustee, and onetime Southampton Town tax assessor, said the town’s decision is an example being penny wise and pound foolish.
“How much does this really cost?” he asked on Monday. “When you chase dollars, sometimes it has unintended consequences.”
He said that if village residents lost their right to use the beaches, maybe the next time the lease comes due on the Sag Harbor transfer station, the village, which owns that land, might demand a much higher fee.
But Mr. Schiavoni pointed out that village residents, including those who live in East Hampton Town, currently enjoy access to the transfer station.
Mr. Deyermond, who lives just a short walk from Division Street, which marks the boundary between the two towns, said it upsets him that his family will no longer be able to use Sagg Main Beach. He pointed out the closest beach in East Hampton Town is at Beach Lane in Wainscott, which already has limited parking and will soon be a construction site for the landing of a power cable from the South Fork Wind Farm.
He acknowledged, though, that residents on the Southampton side of the village do not get the right to use East Hampton Town beaches.
Despite Mr. Deyermond’s complaints — and those of others, who will likely find out about the change when they buy their beach permit this spring — the change in policy was codified in January following a December public hearing.
Information about how to purchase all of the town’s various beach permits online before beaches are officially opened before Memorial Day can be found under the parks and recreation heading on the town website, southamptontownny.gov.