The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals approved the construction of a rock revetment on the Montauk bluffs Tuesday night, apparently setting a precedent on coastal erosion structures.
Passed by four votes, with one member, Lee White of Montauk, having recused himself, the board gave John Ryan of Surfside Avenue an okay to build a 100-foot-long and 10-foot-wide stone structure to stem erosion from stormwater and runoff. The work will involve regrading an eroding stream, or gully, that runs over the bluffs and putting in cedar terracing along its west side. There are freshwater and tidal wetlands on the property.
At a public hearing on the application on Aug. 16, members of the Surfrider Foundation, the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, and some Montauk residents had voiced opposition to the proposal, which has received approval from the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Because the property is slightly east of Shadmoor State Park, however, the record was held open so that the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation could comment.
In a letter dated Sept. 11, M. Pamela Otis, director of environmental management for that office, discussed how the proposed rock revetment had the potential to contribute to erosion at Shadmoor.
“When considering this application, the Town of East Hampton should adhere to the L.W.R.P. [Local Waterfront Revitalization Program] policy, minimizing flooding and erosion hazards through nonstructural means, carefully-selected, long-term structural measures, and appropriate siting of structures.”
She also suggested that the environmental assessment form that had been prepared on the application be updated to include the recent discovery of two additional endangered plants. She wrote that while it appeared “there would be no direct impacts to known rare plant populations,” it was “possible that increased flow could lead to increased erosion of the bluffs on the east side of the project area.” She requested more information about stormwater control and clarification of the work zone.
Board members, however, agreed there was merit in the project, suggesting that it might help slow the speed of the erosion. Both the chairman and vice chairman of the panel spoke in favor of approval. Philip Gamble, the chairman, said the project would “have the least amount of damage to surrounding area and beaches and Shadmoor. Erosion is going to happen either way on this property. We’re trying to protect this person’s property,” he said.
“It doesn’t seem fair to make the situation worse for the homeowner,” Don Cirillo, vice chairman, said. “If he wants this initiative, I see no reason to stop him. It won’t stop the water, but hopefully will stop the erosion.”
“It’s a waterfall over there. Whatever is going up will come down,” Sharon McCobb, a member of the panel, said. Another board member, Alex Walter, noted that Larry Penny, the town’s director of natural resources, had approved the project and that the state had not put a “negative spin” on it.