A debate about how to respond to storm damage like that seen in Hurricane Sandy’s glancing blow on the South Fork is sure to go on for some time. A more immediate concern for East Hampton is whether Town Hall officials follow the rule of law when properties are left at risk by the inevitable natural onslaughts. The record in the last few years is not good.
In the most recent example, the top town building inspector apparently gave a verbal go-ahead to a Montauk hotel’s owners to place sand in front of its exposed foundation. Right off the bat, this was misguided — town law does not allow for verbal approvals of this sort for reasons that should be obvious. Without a building permit or any oversight from the town, the Royal Atlantic’s owners, the well-regarded Kalminios family of Montauk, authorized a contractor to place a row of concrete drainage rings on the ocean beach in front of their property. Despite the emergency, this was in apparent contravention of a town law that bans “hard” erosion-control structures in most places.
Next, a functionary of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, probably in ignorance, violated state law by saying the concrete rings could remain in place for the time being. Under the terms of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, state agencies are supposed to follow East Hampton Town’s rules in these cases, not the other way around.
That the concrete rings are supposed to be removed after repairs are made to the hotel’s underpinnings is beside the point. The issue is that “permits” given orally, as these apparently were, are not worth the paper they are written on and make a further mockery of the system of regulation, reason, and even-handedness on which East Hampton Town government must be based — especially in times of crisis.