Mollie Zweig will have her rock revetment.
On Friday, the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved the homeowner’s request to replace an old stone groin with a sand-covered rock revetment on her beachfront property on West End Road on Georgica Beach.
The East Hampton Town Trustees had taken issue with the application, claiming to own the land where the revetment is proposed to be installed, and arguing that revetments can have a long-term detrimental effect on the beach.
Nevertheless, the ZBA this week approved the application, agreeing that leaving merely the inefficient stone groin would leave the property and the dune behind it unprotected. The board said it has no jurisdiction in determining whether the area belongs to the Trustees.
“Although the board listened carefully to concerns that the placement of hard structures along the shoreline generally exacerbates natural erosion and accretion cycles, on balance, the board finds that the benefit to the applicant in this instance outweighs the generalized concerns that the proposed revetment [would] have a long-term detrimental effect on the surrounding shoreline,” the board determination reads.
On Tuesday, Trustee Clerk Dianne McNally said the trustees had not yet discussed the ZBA decision, but would be likely to take it up at a meeting on October 22, or perhaps earlier if they call a special meeting.
“I’m not really sure where we’re going to go from here, if it is going to turn into something legal,” she said, adding that such a decision would depend on the wording of the ZBA’s determination and the advice of the trustees’ legal counsel.
ZBA Chairman Frank Newbold acknowledged on Friday that it was a sensitive issue and a difficult one to deal with. “There are different viewpoints, and until there is a unified policy across East Hampton Town, the Trustees, the village and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, it is hard to pick one homeowner who cannot have the benefit of a revetment,” he said.
Vice Chairwoman Lysbeth Marigold said she was swayed by the applicant when she heard that she would have the groin removed and the stones recycled and used for the new revetment. “Removing the groin tipped me over to agreeing to it,” she said.
She said there seemed to be a “looking glass” on the application as East Hampton Town officials mulled over a Montauk beach restoration project: “It is hard to do things piecemeal, but the application maintained the integrity of the beaches.”
The new revetment will be farther landward than the existing seawalls on either side of it and will include dune restoration, including the deposit of 4,000 cubic yards of sand—about 125 percent of the volume of sand estimated to be in the original dune, according to the determination. Beach grass will also be planted and sand fencing will be installed.
Ms. Zweig and her contractor, Robert Sullivan, drew the attention of village and town officials two years ago when they installed a fence on Georgica Beach in front of the property after Hurricane Irene caused severe erosion there. They were each charged with numerous violations of the village code that ranged from impeding foot and truck traffic on the beach without the consent of the East Hampton Town Trustees to building a structure within 100 feet of the high water line to disturbing an area within 150 of beach grass.
The fence later washed away.
According to Ms. Zweig’s application, she has lost approximately 90 linear feet of dune and 3,200 cubic yards of dune sand over the past two years as a result of Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and a number of nor’easters.
The property is buffered by other revetments and structures put up by neighbors, according to the ZBA, and the shoreline is characterized by numerous seawalls that were installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a larger project that anticipated the construction of a string of groins joined by a continuous revetment along a wider area. According to Ms. Zweig’s application, the connection was never constructed and because of that the groin never served its function.
“The shoreline in the vicinity is already characterized by numerous seawalls,” the determination goes on to say. “The existing groin, when exposed, is a hazard, interferes with the public’s ability to freely traverse the beach, and appears to be counterproductive.”