Quogue Mayor Discusses Dune Road, Sandy And Beaches During State Of The Village Address

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Before moving on to more serious matters, Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius drew some laughs from the audience while giving his annual State of the Village address at Village Hall on Saturday.

He began by sharing a few comedic questions asked of village employees by callers whose identities he kindly kept anonymous. The questions included: “Should I get married to my friend in order to get him a beach sticker for his car?” and, Mr. Sartorius’s favorite, “Are people from East Moriches allowed to come to the concerts?” which the mayor followed with a comic, “Who let them in?”

The mayor then covered an array of topics during the hour-long speech, which is sponsored each year by the Quogue Association, including a plan to elevate Dune Road, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, local politics, and litigation in which the village remains entangled.

He said the village is in the process of obtaining the permits necessary to raise the eastern portion of Dune Road, a 2.5-mile stretch from the Quogue Bridge to the village’s border with East Quogue, by about 18 inches to alleviate flooding. The mayor said officials have been working on the idea over the past year, and he expects the next submission of plans to the State Department of Environmental Conservation to be the final step before the village can draft final construction plans and begin the bidding process.

He also said he hopes the project can get under way in the fall of 2014, though he declined to share an estimated cost of the work out of fear that the number would fluctuate before things are finalized. A plan long in the works to raise a five-mile stretch of Dune Road in East Quogue and Hampton Bays, which is under Southampton Town’s jurisdiction, is expected to cost between $7 million and $9 million, according to Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor. A lack of funding has kept that project in its conceptional phase; Mr. Sartorius explained this week that the village would have to float a bond to pay for the road improvement project.

“By and large, we fared pretty well,” Mr. Sartorius said while discussing Hurricane Sandy and the damage it left behind in its wake.

He added that the village-owned “snail house,” which sits on Dune Road near the village beach, sustained a substantial amount of damage. He also quizzed the audience on how much debris employees removed from public property in Quogue immediately after the large storm, with the answer being 7,407 cubic yards.

The beach lost plenty of sand, he said, but the village was able to transport sand from a stockpile created during the dredging of the Shinnecock Inlet late last year, which brought down the costs of the restoration. The village has received about $106,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and is still waiting on flood insurance claims.

“By far, the greatest damage in Quogue was done to private property,” the mayor said. “The dunes were cut way back.”

In 2011, a group of Dune Road homeowners in Quogue paid about $100,000 to a firm to design a beach renourishment project for the village and apply for the necessary permits on behalf of the municipality. They went forward with those plans even though the village has not proposed it as an official project, a necessary step for such work to be implemented.

The proposed project would be financed through a new taxing district, similar to the projects under way in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack that call for the dredging of sand from offshore locations and pumping it onto the beaches there. Mr. Sartorius said the group attempted to discuss the proposed $12 million to $14 million project with Dune Road homeowners last fall, which generated some opposition.

“Clearly, there has to be some further information, education and discussion on the project,” he said. “My own view, at the moment anyway, from an environmental standpoint, I don’t really think there’s an issue. These projects have been done a lot of places, including in our vicinity.”

He added that the project would be subject to oversight from the Army Corps of Engineers, and would require the support from a majority of residents on Dune Road, and a consensus on how the costs would be covered.

Mr. Sartorius also offered a brief update on the litigation surrounding a religious boundary that is being proposed by the East End Eruv Association, a nonprofit organization, and would include part of Quogue. He said the case was recently reassigned to Magistrate Judge Kathleen Tomlinson, who stayed all discovery while she gets caught up on the issues surrounding the case.

“It doesn’t sound like it will be resolved anytime too soon,” he said.

The village has appealed a State Supreme Court decision in a suit filed by the Southampton Town Trustees over their authority to regulate the ocean beaches seaward of the crest of the dunes. Though the judge dismissed the case, which demanded that Quogue and its residents remove the giant sand bags they had buried under the dunes to protect their oceanfront properties, the decision reaffirmed the regulatory power of the Town Trustees.

“It’s more than simply a grudge match—it can affect the things we do on the beach,” Mr. Sartorius said. “I believe that our legal position, mainly that the Trustees don’t have ability to regulate the beaches in incorporated villages such as Quogue—I believe that it’s the correct one.”

Also discussed are the upcoming Board of Trustees elections, which will take place on Friday, June 21, at the Quogue firehouse. Trustees Randy Cardo and Ted Necarsulmer are up for reelection and both are unopposed.

“I could say that your vote is crucial, but it is probably really not,” the mayor said, jokingly.

He also offered an update on construction at the Inn at Quogue, the building that sits at the end of Jessup Lane and Quogue Street. A group of investors who purchased the structure last fall first sought to preserve it and have it listed as a historical site, but rot and degradation made it necessary to instead construct a new building, according to the mayor. The Inn, which will include a restaurant and a bar, will reopen as a private club, with a $10,000 initial fee and annual dues for members, according to Mr. Sartorius.

Quogue resident Nancy Mullan took the podium during the question-and-answer portion of Mr. Sartorius’s address to discuss the protection of historic structures in the village, a topic that has been broached frequently by residents in recent years.

“Any structure in this village can be demolished at any time by the owner and there is absolutely nothing any of us can do to prevent it,” she said. “The support for preservation is simply not there.”

Ms. Mullan proposed establishing an ad hoc committee to discuss possible protections of old buildings with the goal of presenting a formal proposal to Village Board next spring.

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