Southampton Village Board members on Thursday evening closed a public hearing on a proposal to limit the number of vehicles permitted on the stretch of ocean beach known as the “Picnic Area” and said they will not consider the new rule until after summer.
The hearing, which took place at the Southampton Arts Center on Jobs Lane, was the fifth on the topic, and allowed members of the public to make their final pleas on a proposal that seeks to cap at 175 the number of vehicles that are able to access the Picnic Area at any given time, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and park on the sand. It is the only stretch of ocean-facing beach in Southampton Town where people are permitted to drive onto the beach in the summer months, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., with a proper village permit.
Before giving the handful of members from the public a chance to speak on the issue, Mayor Mark Epley told those in attendance that the board would not be taking action that night, nor do they plan on taking action for some time. In fact, when everyone was done speaking, Mr. Epley said the board would not be taking action at all this summer.
Many of the same individuals who had spoken against any proposed changes at the previous four hearings got up to speak again on Thursday night, sometimes more than once.
Francis Adamczeski described the area as a place for families to be able to enjoy the beach—a place where, if a swimmer gets caught in a rip current, someone will charge in after them, and where kids run around with the biggest smiles. Mr. Adamczeski even invited Nica Strunk, the Southampton-based attorney who is representing the Araskog family in a lawsuit against the Town Trustees and Village of Southampton, to come down to the beach and experience what everyone is so passionate about.
Bill Frankenbach Jr. of Hampton Bays told board members that he recently took his elderly mother down to the Picnic Area. When he drove her onto the beach, he found a spot, set up a chair and umbrella, and walked her 10 feet from the car to the chair. What made it worthwhile, he said, was the smile he saw on her face as she stared out at the sea.
His point: that access needs to remain open so that people with elderly or disabled family members can get them down to the beach so they too can enjoy it.
After hearing that the board would not make a decision on the amendment for some time, Jim Williams, who serves on the board of directors for the Southampton Association for Beach Access, asked the board to consider moving forward with extending the portion of the beach where driving is allowed to the east of Road F, but the board would not. The extension is part of the amendment to limit the number of vehicles at the Picnic Area to 175.
Ms. Strunk did not speak at the meeting, but a letter was presented on behalf of the Araskogs, asking for a more thorough study to be conducted.
A hearing on June 22 was supposed to be the last but was left open to allow board members time to review an environmental impact statement that was completed by the consulting firm Nelson, Pope and Voorhis of Melville, and released on June 16.
That environmental statement issued a negative declaration, meaning that if the Village Board approves the proposed amendment to limit the number of vehicles allowed at the Picnic Area at a single time, it is not expected to pose any more of an environmental threat than exists currently.