Despite having seemingly secured the votes to adopt a resolution supporting a bulkhead project on West Water Street during a work session held two weeks ago, this week a majority of the Sag Harbor Village Harbor committee reversed their decision. They instead asked the village board to look at other options, or at the very least, provide the committee with a detailed report on why other counter-erosion efforts would prove ineffective on that section of beachfront.
For a decade now, erosion has plagued a portion of West Water Street, directly across from a now defunct condominium project. For over two years now, the current village board has been closely monitoring erosion at the site, which was left deteriorated in the wake of storms in 2009 through 2011, with whole sections of the embankment eroded to the point where some utility lines were exposed. Directly under the narrow roadway lie septic, water and electricity lines.
In June, Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren conceived formal plans to construct a 568-foot vinyl bulkhead at the beach as well as five four-by-four platforms with stairs to allow access to the beach and dockage.
The proposal still is awaiting New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) approval, although according to village officials the NYSDEC supports the concept of a bulkhead on the project and shot down several other counter-erosion options including the use of gabions — wire cages filled with rocks that would be placed against the embankment.
While Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait has supported the project, last month he failed to find the votes to deem it consistent with the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Project (LWRP). At a work session late last month, Tait appeared to have secured some votes in favor of the project, but failed to find the same support during Monday night’s Harbor Committee meeting.
Before a vote was taken, Tait encouraged his board to at least vote the measure down or approve it rather than make no resolution and leave the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees without any feedback.
Tait added that he believes the village’s Harbor Management Plan, which dates back far before the LWRP to the 1960s, supports this kind of project.
The Harbor Management Plan notes the Harbor District in Sag Harbor has “been subject to extensive public investment that is exposed to flood hazards out of necessity,” read Tait directly from the document. “Therefore, the water dependent uses in the waterfront and marine zoning districts have a priority for shoreline hardening to protect them against the erosive forces of storm events … Where a substantial portion of the water-dependent use in the Harbor District has been bulkheaded, it may be desirable to continue the bulkheading along the full length of the use.”
“There are key words there: ‘may be’,” replied committee member Jeff Peters. “There has to be another way.”
Committee member Brian Halweil said that while that language supports bulkheading there is also language within several policies of the LWRP that do not.
He said unless he was shown evidence that other alternatives were ruled out, he was inclined to find it inconsistent with the LWRP.
Peters and John Christopher supported Halweil’s motion. Tait did not support the resolution and committee member Dr. Tom Halton was absent.
Halweil also asked the village board to look into a long term plan for the outflow pipe in that area, as well as more details on plantings and why there is no opportunity for planting beyond the bulkhead and down onto the existing beach.
Meanwhile, the committee continued to hold the line on its demand that applicants hoping for a wetlands permit fulfill at least the minimum requirement of a 25-foot wetlands buffer of native plants in order to be given approval — in particular, when it comes to its own membership.
Christopher, who recused himself from the discussion, has proposed a 668-square-foot addition on the upland side of his 92 Redwood Road home. His planner, Matt Ivans of Suffolk Environmental, originally proposed no additional wetlands buffer as the Christopher family has preserved a large expanse of wetlands on their property.
After months of debate, Ivans came back this week with a 15-foot wetlands buffer.
Tait said he would need to hear an argument for hardship, outside of wanting more lawn, in order for the application to gain his support.
Halweil said he believed the committee should take into account the fact the Christophers are building on the landward side of their home and are not adding a pool. He said he was willing to find the application consistent.
“There are three people voting on this board tonight and I think we need to hold the standards high,” said Tait.
“My personal fear is going to be like the Town of Southampton where every time you want to do something it is going to be another bite out of the apple, more and more and more buffer,” said Ivans.
Both Southampton and East Hampton towns are even more restrictive with their wetland setbacks.
As the committee was unable to reach consensus, they agreed to table the measure until next month’s November 14 meeting.
Similarly, David Sokolin’s wetlands permit applicant was also tabled. Sokolin has proposed a 13 by 25-foot swimming pool within his existing deck at 176 Redwood Road. Last month, his planner, Sean Barron, proposed at 10-foot wetlands buffer and was quickly sent back to the drawing board.
Sokolin argued on Monday night that he was sensitive to environmental issues, which was why he chose to construct the pool within the existing deck and not in the yard.
Barron added he has submitted a new plan with a 15-foot buffer, which does extend 20-feet if decking next to the bulkhead is counted as a part of the buffer plan.
Tait advised them to come back next month and show a plan that can get as close to the minimum requirement as possible, even if it means proposing 30-feet of buffer on the sides of the property and less in the center.
Warren added the committee is actually asked to enforce a 75-foot buffer, but can make exceptions. However, the code states that under no circumstances should they allow a buffer smaller than 25-feet in an effort to protect the wetlands and the waterfront of Sag Harbor.
“Take a big bite out of this, otherwise go to the zoning board of appeals,” said Tait. “There is an appeal process.”
Richard Pantina of 12 Notre Dame Road has proposed demolishing an existing house and building a new two-story home with a 2,934-square-footprint as well as a swimming pool, spa, stone patio and new sanitary system.
Last month, Tait and the committee asked that Ivans come back with a buffer larger than 25-feet given the scale of the development, and on Monday, Ivans delivered by proposing 35-feet of buffer to the wetlands.
He is expected to be granted his permit next month.