The Georgica Association has told the East Hampton Town Trustees they may no longer use the association-owned beach between Beach Lane and the Georgica Pond gut. The stretch has been the traditional access for trucks and excavators used to lett, or open, the pond to the ocean in the spring and fall of the year.
At their monthly meeting on Tuesday night, Diane McNally, the trustees’ presiding officer, told her board she had received a letter from Karen A. Hoeg, an attorney with the firm of Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin and Quartararo, representing the association. It states that “. . . no further use of the Association’s property is permitted to the trustees and its contractors in connection with dredging Georgica Pond . . . Moreover, the use of the Association’s property by the trustees for any commercial purpose of any kind whatsoever is not permitted. Please know that the Association has asked us to enforce their rights with extreme vigor. If the trustees desire use of Association property, please contact us to discuss the issues of price, insurance, indemnification, etc.”
The beach between Beach Lane in Wainscott and the narrow isthmus that separates the coastal pond and the sea is one of the few beaches in town whose private ownership predates the formation, in 1686, of the town trustees. Their founding Dongan Patent declared beaches to be common land.
Since then, trustees have opened the pond in the spring and fall, as did their native predecessors, to allow spawning fish to enter in spring and exit in fall. In more recent times, high pond levels have occasionally flooded pondfront properties. In addition, trustees have made available to contractors, for a price, sand dredged from the beach to open the gut. The sand has been used to shore up eroded beach and dune.
Trustees have had to balance the environmental health of the pond with the often-untimely wishes of the flooded, and they have provided sand to protect beachfront homes. By not allowing access to the Georgica Pond gut, the association has presented the trustees, and some of its own members, with a conundrum.
During Tuesday’s meeting trustees agreed to send a letter to association members to alert them of the position their attorney’s letter has put them in, while at the same time asking East Hampton Village officials and excavation contractors to help find a way to access the gut from West End Road, on the east side.
“We will say we don’t use the pond openings as just a commercial project but for the health of the pond. Our letter will say we’re surprised the association is not concerned with the pond’s health,” Ms. McNally said after the meeting.
Trustees also discussed the problem of controlling the layout of docks and pilings in the various marinas at Three Mile Harbor. Trustees own, on behalf of the public, the harbor bottomland. They lease beaches and bottom for pilings and bulkheads, but have had trouble coming up with a formula that allows marina owners the flexibility to change the pattern of their docks in order to accommodate different-size boats, while restricting further expansion of the marina’s footprint.
Peter Mendelman of Seacoast Enterprises Associates, owners of Harbor, Halsey’s, Three Mile Harbor, and Gardiner’s Marinas, urged the board to consider charging lessees by a marina’s footprint — the total area its docks, catwalks, and pilings take up.
Trustees said that while the measuring of individual docks and numbering of pilings was indeed unwieldy, allowing marina owners to do whatever they wished within a given space whose bottomland was publicly owned, would eventually lead to the “privatization” of that area.
Mr. Mendelman said requiring marina owners to pay for a new survey every time they changed the pattern of their docks would be prohibitively expensive.
In the end, he and the trustees agreed to work together to design a system that would fit both the trustees’ and marina owners’ needs.