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Bluff wall may need to be torn down, village says

Workers shore up an area of the shoreline

Workers shore up an area of the shoreline near Bluff Road in Nissequogue on April 21, 2017. The village said a homeowner's retaining wall there may need to be demolished. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A woman who owns two beachfront homes above Nissequogue Village’s eroding bluffs may have to demolish a giant rock wall her contractors built that municipal officials say is too big and improperly located.

Mayor Rich Smith said in a public hearing Tuesday night that a preliminary survey by village engineering and building inspection staff indicated that the wall, composed of 2 1⁄2-ton boulders near the toe of a steep bluff at 4 Bluff Rd., was too tall, infringed on a neighbor’s property and sat too far away from the bluff.

In addition, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees permitting for construction projects along the coast of the Long Island Sound, issued a notice of violation this month, finding that property owner Sharron MacDonald or her contractors had failed to notify the agency before work started and had not complied with the plans approved for the project. Agency experts found four violations.

MacDonald has 10 days to set up a compliance conference with the agency, a DEC spokeswoman said, and could face fines of $10,000 per day per violation.

Glenn Gruder, a Hauppauge lawyer for the homeowner, said Thursday he had not yet seen the DEC notice of violation. Earlier in the week he said he believed the work was done “according to the DEC permit,” and that his client awaited a report, expected within a week, formalizing the village findings.

The purpose of the wall is to slow erosion of the land above the bluffs, but the beach below is public property.

Building inspector Joe Arico believed the wall “needs to be taken apart and reconfigured” according to the specifications laid out earlier this year by the DEC.

MacDonald paid $1.2 million for 4 Bluff Rd. in 2009 and $6.6 million for nearby beachfront 5 Fox Point Dr. in 2015. Her representatives say both properties need rock walls to slow a coastal erosion rate of 2 1⁄2 feet per year.

It was not immediately clear how much demolition of the wall would cost. Construction of the roughly 400-foot wall cost $1,000 a foot, including accompanying landscaping, the project engineer said earlier this year.

The Fox Point Drive property is on the market. According to the real estate website Zillow, the asking price for the 10,000-square-foot house on 3.5 acres was cut earlier this month from $7.6 million to $6.6 million.

Some village officials, coastal experts and neighbors say the walls would starve nearby public beaches of sand and threaten Stony Brook Harbor.

“We all know Long and Short Beach depend on the erosion of the bluffs,” neighbor Nancy Fetherston said at the hearing. “You have to do the right thing,” she warned trustees, or else your legacy “is going to be the long-term destruction . . . It’s not going to be a good one.”

The public hearing on 4 Bluff Rd. is scheduled to resume next month.

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