Zoning: Six-Feet Down and Wide Dilemmas

Last week, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals considered a six-foot-wide boardwalk. Next week, it expects to come to terms with bodies six-feet deep.

Last week’s application is from a couple who want to install a six-foot-wide, 848-foot-long boardwalk from their house, at 2 Tyson Lane, through the dunes. Patrick B. Fife, the couple’s attorney, explained that each uses a wheelchair and needs assistance to get to the beach. The roughly eight-acre parcel on which the house sits is owned in part by the Nature Conservancy, which neither supported nor opposed the proposal. But the hearing lasted three hours.

The property is in what is the Double Dunes, Brian Frank, the Planning Department’s chief environmentalist, said, which extends 2.8 miles from Further Lane and Tyson Lane all the way to the western part of Bluff Road, and covers about 100 acres. In a memo to the board, Mr. Frank wrote that the land is ecologically important and shelters many forms of wildlife and plants.

The planned width of the boardwalk “exceeds the four-foot width consistent with coastal access policies and the past practices of the board,” he wrote. He also objected to the particular chosen path, which, he said was along a current footpath. This was disputed by another representative of the applicants, although Cate Rogers, a board member, and John Whelan, the chairman, pointed out that the survey submitted with the application uses the words “along existing footpath” five times.

Mr. Frank and the representative also disagreed about whether rolling the boardwalk over plants would constitute clearing, which is prohibited on the dunes. In the end, the board asked for a new survey that clearly delineates the proposed path and also asked that the path itself be staked, so that members can do a field inspection. The record will be open until July 15.

Among the matters on next week’s agenda, at the board’s meeting at Town Hall on Tuesday, is an application from Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, which wishes to expand its cemetery on Route 114 into an adjacent, roughly one-acre parcel. Eventually all of the property would be cleared for burials. However, because the land is in a water recharge district clearing is strictly limited. An even more worrisome challenge, though, is that the practice under Judiac law is to bury the dead in simple wood coffins.

The town code explicitly requires that the “creation or expansion of a cemetery in the water recharge overlay district, shall only be approved upon condition that internment caskets be encased in watertight liners to restrict the entry of body decomposition and embalming chemicals into local ground or surface waters.” In a memo to the board, Eric Schantz, a planner for the town, said the requirement for watertight liners was “moot” because embalming fluids are not used in Jewish burials. He did not address the matter of body decomposition, however, apparently leaving it up to the board.

Also on Tuesday, Lee White rejoined the board after being appointed by the East Hampton Town Board to replace  Bryan Gosman, who resigned recently.