New Owners Of Former East Deck Motel In Montauk Closer To Bluff Restoration

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Between 160 and 170 dump trucks full of sand are expected to parade down Montauk’s Ditch Plains and Deforest roads this spring.

If the new owner of the former East Deck Motel on Deforest Road gains approval from the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, the sand will be used to restore the property’s dune.

At the town’s ZBA meeting on February 4, Attorney Richard Hammer, who represents ED40 LLC, the new owner of the five-acre lot, said the dune needs to be restored because of severe erosion that occurred during Superstorm Sandy. A groin on the property’s west side is said to have been the culprit that worsened erosion along Ditch Plains beach.

Last summer, East Hampton Town decided to dump more than 4,000 cubic yards of sand at Ditch Plains to build back the popular beach destination.

Despite the need for replenishment at 40 Deforest Road, members of the ZBA made it clear to Mr. Hammer that ED40 must do it right and keep the impact of the project to a minimum. Their concern stemmed from neighbors and frequent beachgoers who urged the board to make sure the trucked-in sand is compatible with what is already there and who expressed concern about the impact the numerous trucks going by would have on the streets.

To transport the sand, approximately 17 trucks each day for 10 days would roll down Ditch Plains and Deforest roads, according to Billy Mack of First Coastal, the environmental consulting firm from Westhampton Beach that ED40 hired to replenish its beach. Approximately 6,000 cubic yards of sand would be dumped to form a new bluff crest.

First Coastal said in a letter in December to Tom Preiato, the town’s building inspector, that the dune has been “diminished substantially in both height and width and can be breached by northeasters.” First Coastal added that according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency analysis from 2013, the protection of the dune has been substantially reduced from its condition in 2008, when they last measured the dune system. Essentially, the dune is in danger of being “obliterated” by flooding, and the pool and structures behind the dune would be destroyed, according to First Coastal.

Mr. Hammer said the previous owner, Alice Houseknecht, did several projects on her own to keep up the dune.

“It is a vulnerable location that requires a lot of stewardship,” he said. “The current application is more aggressive duneland restoration … and provides a level of environmental protection that we don’t have.”

Mr. Mack said the sand, which would be the same grade as the sand found on Ditch Plains beach, would come from Mecox Bay or other inland bays or ponds.

Once the sand is trucked in and dumped at a staging area, crews would lift it with a payloader from the dump to the dune. Then a bulldozer would shape the sand dune to its final configuration, from 12 to 20 feet tall. FEMA recommends that dunes be at least 18 to 20 feet tall, Mr. Mack said.

All of this work would likely take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and native beach grasses would be planted as the final step of restoration, according to Mr. Mack.

He said the project could be wrapped up in mid to late April.

At the ZBA meeting, neighbors expressed their support of the restoration, but said they wanted some assurance that the project would leave their neighborhood in good, if not better, condition than before.

“The road is 25 feet from my house,” said Deforest Road resident Roger Boyle. “These are 85,000- to 100,000-pound trucks going by. This isn’t a highway-designed road. This road is going to get trashed or at least severely damaged. I’m totally in support of the project but it will affect me directly.”

Mr. Hammer told the board that if at the end of the project, Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch says there is significant damage to the road, his client would be willing to bear that cost.

“We don’t want to go tearing up roads,” he said. “There are a lot of heavy trucks that drive on Ditch Plains Road, we just happen to have a lot of them.”

He said ED40 would also be willing to fix any problems that might arise during the dumping and moving of sand, and while they would like to be able to access the beach from the town’s access roads if necessary, First Coastal could restrict its crews to ED40’s property to decrease the impact on the community.

Brisbane Road resident Chris Poli said if that were to be done he could rest easy.

“The disruption to the community is worth it if they’re taking measures to minimize the impact,” he said. “The benefit of having natural protection for the dune outweighs what will be a two-week window [of work]. I think the town needs to manage our beaches and do soft projects. As a beach town, we maintain our roads, but we don’t maintain our beaches in any way.”

The board seemed in favor of the project, if these certain conditions are met, and closed the public hearing. A decision has to be rendered within 62 days, but will be expedited so work can begin if the approval is given.

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