Concerned homeowners living along Gardiners Bay in Amagansett finally will be able to upgrade the former Bell Estate dock, which has been disintegrating over time.
On Tuesday night, November 18, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously decided to overturn former Chief Building Inspector Tom Preiato’s determination not to grant a building permit to allow the Broadview Property Owners Association to rehabilitate the dock.
In a 2013 letter to the applicants, Mr. Preiato said he would not grant the building permit because the applicants did not demonstrate that the environment or the public would benefit from its replacement.
“It’s been a very interesting application,” said ZBA Chairman John Whelan. “I appreciate what Tom Preiato did, opening this up to the public. We’ve had a thorough and fruitful and productive public hearing … I think the dock is a benefit to the area to the north, and since 1930 it has become a nice beach habitat there.”
Dr. Dennistoun Bell built a colonial revival-style mansion on 155 acres on Gardiners Bay in 1916. He continued to buy land around his estate, eventually collecting more than 500 acres. He built the dock in the late 1920s or early 1930s so that he could take his 40-foot sailboat out into the bay. Today, however, the water is not deep enough to support docking a boat there.
Even though the pier remains in its original position, its steel beams are rusting and its wooden planks are nearly gone.
The homeowners association is planning to remove an L-shaped portion of the 103-foot dock and shorten it by 15 feet. A new steel piling will be installed around an existing steel piling for a total length of 91 feet.
Patrick Fife, the attorney representing the homeowners, said in October that removing the dock, and shortening it drastically, would mean changing the shoreline, and the East Hampton Town Planning Department agreed. The pier’s steel beams have collected sand drifting south, preserving a walkable beach, but keeping sand from the beach to the south.
Convinced that it is the right decision, ZBA member David Lys said he supported the upgrade. “It will secure the maritime habitat that has formed over last 60 years,” he said. “What was presented to us is the best plan to possibly have there. I don’t feel that allowing the pier to disintegrate would benefit the town … if you remove it, you’ll lose that beach. It’s a benefit to the community to have a nice, wide beach there. I think the design is a good design.”
Mr. Fife said he and his clients were happy to hear the good news, but he didn’t yet know when construction would begin.
“The association is pleased that the board seemed to understand the unique nature of this application and patiently listened and considered all testimony,” he said. “The board covered the fact that the work should present an environmental and public benefit to the entire town, that the beach area is not only an amenity for the public but a real environmental habitat, and it’s a good thing for the town that the beach won’t disappear. That was a really big risk and we’re glad the town considered that on the application.”