Coastal Tax District Okayed

    Oceanfront homeowners in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack voted on Saturday to approve a $24 million beach renourishment project in an effort to protect approximately six miles of shoreline from further erosion.
    The referendum came after over two years of discussion, initiated by a group of residents who approached Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst with the idea of forming a special taxing district to jointly protect their properties. Many of them, they said, had spent tens of thousands of dollars annually to rebuild the dunes in front of their houses with sand, snow fencing, and hay bales; they said the joint project would be a positive for all residents of the town. There are five town-owned beaches within the six-mile stretch.
    After a series of public hearings last year, followed by Superstorm Sandy, Southampton Town Trustees pushed for a quick vote. The storm caused severe erosion to the coastline and structural damage to many of the properties within the two taxing districts.
    In Sagaponack the vote was close, with 32 in favor and 24 opposed. Twenty-five of the hamlet’s 81 eligible residents did not vote. In Bridgehampton, 43 were in favor and 25 opposed, with only 68 votes cast of the 121 who were eligible.    
    Southampton Town will issue the $24 million bond, to be repaid by the 141 property owners within the special taxing district over a 10-year period. The total assessed value of their properties is about $1.8 billion. The town’s share of the project is about $1.5 million.
    Tim Kana, a coastal expert, was selected to design the renourishment project, which will match the look of the existing beach, a factor that was critically important to the property owners, said Jeff Lignelli of Bridgehampton, the spokesman for the Bridgehampton Beach Erosion Control District. First Coastal Corporation of Westhampton, a firm led by Aram Terchunian, will partner with Coastal Science and Engineering in the beach restoration.
    Mr. Terchunian, a coastal engineer, explained at a hearing in August that about 950,000 cubic yards of underwater sand would be taken from miles offshore and placed closer inland, with the windblown sand eventually creating a wider, more protective beach and dunes. His firm has had successful results with that approach on Fire Island, at Shinnecock Inlet, and at West Hampton Dunes, he said. Gary Vigiante, the mayor of West Hampton Dunes, confirmed its success at the hearing, saying, “It has worked incredibly well.”
     “What was initially a more proactive project became urgently needed following the storm,” said Ms. Throne-Holst in a release. “It’s likely they’ll have a wide, protective beach within the year.”