Quietly late last month the East Hampton Town Trustees went to court to seek to overturn a decision by the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals giving a Lazy Point couple permission to build a sea wall, or revetment. Though as of this writing we had not seen the suit itself, presumably, the trustees are challenging the Z.B.A. ruling on two points: that required trustee approval was not obtained and that the revetment would violate the town’s own coastal erosion law.
Back in 2010, by the time Joshua Young and Christine Lemieux bought their one-story Mulford Lane, Amagansett, house the landward-shifting shoreline there had already undermined one structure, which the town ultimately condemned and had taken away. Another house, which now teeters high on pilings, was surrounded by water at high tide and a third was threatened, forcing its owners to attempt to fortify its foundation with heaps of rocks. (You have to wonder what the couple were thinking when they were first shown the obviously doomed property and what malarkey the seller or real estate agent dished up to convince them it was a good deal.)
In 2011, Mr. Young and Ms. Lemieux asked the town for permission for a revetment, which was denied — and rightly so. The property is in a zone where no new “hard” erosion-control structures are allowed. But then, just last year, the Z.B.A. inexplicably reversed itself after the couple asked again, granting its blessing for the precedent-setting project, despite a Planning Department analysis that suggested the project would have negative long-term effects on the area.
The trustee lawsuit is a necessary challenge to Town Hall, which has played fast and loose with building and zoning regulations for too long. This could be an important moment in town history, and the trustees are to be commended for standing up and saying, in effect, the rules must be followed and their authority over the beaches cannot be ignored.