Z.B.A. Considers Big Storms

In a post-Sandy world, increased scrutiny greets West End Road project

    A complex presentation before the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals on June 28 demonstrated the increased scrutiny applications concerning oceanfront properties will face in a post-Hurricane Sandy world.

    Board members, including Frank Newbold, who has been appointed chairman to replace Andrew Goldstein, who is no longer on the panel, listened as Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Associates explained the technicalities involved in an application from Katharine J. Rayner to build a storage area under her house at 85 West End Road.  At issue was the potential environmental impact.

    The applicant, Mr. Warren told the board, seeks to lower the floor of a 19-by-28-foot room at the western end of the house. This would be accomplished, he said, by a process in which the building would be supported from below with cribbing as excavation occurred around the perimeter and four-by-four-foot holes drilled for concrete and steel rebar. The process is standard, he said, and would be carried out by her contractor, Ben Krupinski.

    Eight to 12 workers would do the work by hand, with no heavy equipment that could potentially disturb the nearby dune, Mr. Warren said. The concrete would be pumped via a hose from the driveway. Working in sections, there would be no danger of the house settling. Once the house was supported, the existing floor would be removed and a new concrete floor poured. The plan, he said, would have no impact on the surroundings.

    Mr. Warren said the construction method was devised with the help of Lee Weishar, a coastal engineer from the Woods Hole Group in Falmouth, Mass. “Lee inspected the site after Hurricane Sandy,” he said. Dr. Weishar, he said, also inspected an existing revetment that had been exposed after the hurricane and found that it was stable.

    The top of the revetment, which had been put in on the condition that it be covered with sand, lost that sand in the storm, Mr. Warren said. But, he said, “It did not move the dune crest back at all. . . . That has all been restored and is back to the condition that it was pre-Sandy. . . . The revetment did exactly what it’s supposed to do.”

    Previous reviews by two other specialists, Mr. Warren said, indicated that “this is not an area of serious erosion on this property,” a conclusion he said Dr. Weishar had also reached.

    Questioning by board members focused on the revetment, which was raised by two feet in 2008. “I think it’s a little misleading to say this is not an area of strong erosion,” Mr. Newbold said. “If you look back in the records, they applied for permits to reconstruct the dune and revetment in 2001, 2003, 2011, and 2013.”

    Mr. Warren, however, said that “this would be an area of erosion” without the revetment. Because of it, he said, “it’s stable, it’s protected.”

    Given the complexity of testimony, as well as the house’s location on a primary dune and within a coastal erosion hazard area, the board is calling on an independent expert, Rob Herrmann of En-Consultants, to review the findings. Mr. Newbold said the hearing would be left open pending Mr. Herrmann’s report, as well as review by Ken Collum, a village code enforcement officer.

    Christopher Minardi, a member of the board, pressed Mr. Warren on the environmental sensitivity of the location. “What happens if we get a slightly bigger storm?” he asked. “The ocean looks like it very well could come up over that dune.” Mr. Warren said that was unlikely, but Mr. Minardi pressed on. “What if it does?” he asked.

    “If it does,” Mr. Warren said, “we’ve got an awful lot of other fish to fry.”

    Mr. Warren asked the board to keep the application in proper perspective. “We’re asking for the lowering of a floor underneath an existing house. . . . If the mother of all storms comes, that goes over the top of the dune, this basement is probably not going to make a difference.”

    “I agree,” said Mr. Minardi, “but I don’t think we need that much of a bigger storm. The dunes are a lot different than they were a year ago.”-