Erosion is an issue on the bay beaches as well as on the ocean, for example, where Mulford Lane meets Gardiner’s Bay in Amagansett. Three houses there are either in the water or about to be. One, on stilts, is not habitable. The owners of another want to replace it with a somewhat larger house and to protect it with a stone revetment.
The work would require several variances, in addition to permits, perhaps most notably to allow a new erosion-control structure in a place where they are specifically prohibited by the town’s recently passed coastal erosion hazard code. Although the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals has held a hearing on the application, it is being revised, apparently so the beach in front of the third house, on a smaller lot to the northeast, can also be armored.
People who own waterfront houses usually would want to do whatever they could to keep them from falling into the sea. This is understandable. It is not, in many cases, in the public interest to allow them to do so. A revetment in this case probably would help the owners save their houses, at least for the near future. But it would mean the disappearance of whatever beach remains there, which is, of course, public. This is a high cost and presents a difficult dilemma for the zoning board.
That erosion is severe at Mulford Lane is an understatement. It is exacerbated by the surrounding upland (if you can call it that) which is as flat as a prairie. These three houses were built at a time when local laws were lax with regard to potential erosion and allowed them to be sited where none should be.
The Z.B.A. should deny the application. Perhaps the matter should more properly be something for the town board to consider and ask whether the properties should be condemned and the structures removed. In doing so, the town would save the homeowners great long-term expense, or great grief, and, with the houses gone, be able to preserve access across the land for the public and future generations.