A proposal for a roll-out boardwalk to the beach, using the Atlantic Double Dunes Preserve, did not receive the blessing of East Hampton Town’s Planning Department last week, but by the end of last Tuesday’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, there was hope for the disabled homeowners who requested the structure.
The Hess family, who live off the ocean on Tyson Lane, want to be able to take their beach wheelchairs to the shore. They told town officials that they need help getting across the dunes by way of the boardwalk, which would not be supported by pylons.
The chief environmental analyst for the Planning Department, Brian Frank, had originally taken issue with where the boardwalk was going to be placed. That detail was at the crux of the confusion.
According to attorney Patrick Fife, who represents the Hess family, identified in the application as MTSTL LLC, the plan is to manually install a 6-foot-wide, 848-foot-long boardwalk made of teak and ipe wood that would lie flat on the ground going out toward the bluff crest.
Most of the boardwalk would follow a footpath that has existed since the 1970s. The boardwalk would not go over any dunes or require any grading of the sand or removal of vegetation in the area, Mr. Fife said.
But Mr. Frank had been under the assumption that the entire boardwalk would follow the footpath, which curves around a secondary dune, because the boardwalk’s path was not clearly outlined in the survey. Since the path he had followed when writing his environmental assessment had involved scaling the side of a dune, he had recommended the denial of the application.
“It does not appear that this boardwalk would either improve pedestrian access or protect the duneland habitat,” he said last week. His concern was not only for the safety of the users of the boardwalk but also for the treatment of the preserve there.
He said the Atlantic Double Dunes Preserve is one of the largest remaining areas of undeveloped barrier beach and back dune ecosystems on Long Island, and that it has a unique set of habitats and wildlife.
Mr. Fife said The Nature Conservancy gave his clients permission, via an easement, to put the southern portion of the boardwalk on the conservancy’s land, which borders the south side of the property.
Mr. Fife explained that the boardwalk would only follow some of the footpath and that it would remain on the flatter parts of the duneland. While other approved boardwalks in the area are 4 feet wide, he said, his clients need a wider one, since their beach wheelchairs have thick, low-pressure wheels. The space in between the boards would allow beach grass and other vegetation to grow up and around the boards, he added.
Since there was a misunderstanding about the placement of the proposed boardwalk, the ZBA ruled to continue to consider the application until July 15 to allow the applicants to stake out the path and Mr. Frank to walk the property. Board members said they want the path to be more clearly reflected in the site plan before ruling on the application.