North Haven Will Consider A Moratorium On New Erosion Control Permits

The beach and bluff on the northwest point of the North Haven peninsula, below the property at 4 On the Bluffs Road, is highly exposed to strong wind and wave action. Peter Boody

The North Haven Village Board may impose a six-month moratorium on new applications for erosion control projects, as Mayor Jeff Sander continues his push for an overhaul of the village’s current policy favoring so-called “soft solutions” for beach protection.

As part of the overhaul, the mayor wants to take authority to grant permits for erosion control projects from the Planning Board and give it to the Village Board, at least temporarily.

“This board … should be the prime body to address revetment applications and discussions,” at least until “we get something in place that’s agreed to across the village,” the mayor said at a special Village Board work session that was held on line via Zoom on Friday, February 5, to discuss erosion control policy. Meanwhile, “We’re the right body to do it,” he said.

During the hour-long discussion, the mayor called for revising the village code to divide the North Haven peninsula’s shoreline into zones, with certain erosion control options prohibited or allowed in each depending on the nature and severity of each zone’s erosion problems.

Hard structures might be barred in areas without continuing erosion problems, such as the southeast quadrant of the peninsula. But more flexibility would be allowed in areas that face strong wave action, such as the high bluffs of the North Haven Point community on the northwest side of the peninsula, which the mayor singled out as probably the village’s most vulnerable shoreline.

The mayor said he favored erosion control solutions that include multiple properties. He cited communally funded beach-nourishment projects, like one on the ocean beach in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, as good examples the village should explore. As a possible option for the bluffs, he cited an erosion control project that has been privately installed by Louis Bacon, owner of Robins Island in Peconic Bay, at his Cow Neck property in North Sea known as the Port of Missing Men.

That project is a multi-tiered project that includes a breakwater created offshore to trip waves before they reach the beach, as it was described at the February 5 session by Aram Terchunian of First Coastal Corp, Mr. Bacon’s contractor for the work. Mr. Terchunian said the project also called for “beach nourishment,” or sand deposition, “behind that to maintain the beach,” with a rock revetment covered with gravel and cobble at the toe of the bluff. Above that, the project includes “matting and vegetation” or what he called “a suite of gray and green” to stabilize the bluff face.

Mr. Sander said the village needs to “get everyone to do something together” in vulnerable locations because a single property owner installing an erosion-control structure can create problems for neighbors. “We need to engage the people on the bluff” to develop a communal solution, the mayor said.

In addition to protecting the environment, “Our role as elected officials is to look at the public interest,” Mr. Sander said, “and right now that means the people on the bluff who live in North Haven Point, not the [general] public, which can’t use or get to” the beach in that area because there is no public access to it.

Village Attorney Scott Middleton broached the idea of a moratorium “on any shoreline hardening of any type” until a code amendment is drafted, presented to the public and adopted. Otherwise, “If a rash of applications come in” in the meantime, he said, the process “would be difficult to control.”

Trustee Dianne Skilbred agreed with the mayor that the idea was “worthwhile.” Commenting on the need for a revised code, Trustee Terie Diat noted that the village’s policy currently “encourages soft solutions” and said she wanted to see “a shift in the language to ‘the most appropriate solutions for the circumstances, for the property, for the zone,’” where soft solutions like coir logs, continuing sand renourishment and vegetation may turn out to ineffective and a waste of money.

One concerned observer on the Zoom session was Amy Gittell, who has been long seeking approval from the state DEC and the village Planning Board to install a rock revetment to preserve the eroding low bluff at her waterfront property in North Haven Manor on the east side of the peninsula. “If we are subject to a moratorium now, we have a very vulnerable property and unsafe conditions there,” she said.

Mr. Middleton assured her “you’re pretty far along in the process” and that “we’ll definitely take into consideration” the fact that “the last meeting” of the Planning Board on the case “went well.” He added that the moratorium he was suggesting would only be for “new applications.”

Mr. Sander said that the village “should move ahead with the [Gittell] application and get it resolved.” Meanwhile, Mr. Middleton will draft moratorium legislation for the board to formally consider. Individual trustees and the mayor also will work to develop and draft the new code.