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East Hampton holds first session in possible beach condemnation

Trucks line the beach on the ocean east

Trucks line the beach on the ocean east of Napeague Lane in Amagansett. Homeowners and East Hampton Town officials are feuding over who owns the area, known as "Truck Beach." Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

East Hampton Town Board members on Tuesday began considering what topics might be covered in an environmental review of the proposed condemnation of 5,500 feet of Amagansett’s Napeague Beach to end a dispute between locals who like to tailgate there in trucks and SUVs and residents with homes near the ocean who want the tradition to end.

The public hearing “scoping session” was held during the board’s work session at Town Hall and is one of the first steps in the town’s possible eminent-domain acquisition of the area known as “Truck Beach.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that the condemnation would solve a seven-year legal battle over who has title to the beach — the town or the property owners — but that more information needs to be gathered before the proposal moves ahead. Included would be an environmental review.

In 2009, two lawsuits were filed claiming ownership of the beach — one by homeowners and another by White Sands motel owner Bernie Kiembock— and alleging that the tailgaters cause damage to the dunes, put children in danger and use the beach as a bathroom.

On June 13, a state Supreme Court trial in the cases ended in Riverhead, and a related appellate decision is also pending. Both rulings are expected by September.

Peter Feroe, a senior planner for White Plains-based AKRF environmental, planning and engineering consultants, helped start the sparsely attended hearing by noting the goal of the beach acquisition would be to “quiet the dispute, to continue to regulate public access and to preserve public access.”

Feroe said the environmental study would weigh alternatives to condemnation, the potential impact of the beach vehicles on “protected species and their habitats” and the levels of traffic and noise they produce.

Others said the study should also address a lack of regular parking in the beach area.

Speakers included Kenneth Silverman, a plaintiff in the homeowners’ lawsuit.

“You’ve been asking us to host an activity” that is not allowed on the other beaches in town,” he told board members.

East Hampton Town resident and fisherman Jay Blatt, a proponent of Truck Beach, thanked the board “for looking to preserve beach freedom.”

Feroe told the audience that the condemnation proposal is in its early stages and that there will be other opportunities for public hearings.

“This is not your last bite at the apple to address the board,” he said.

Written comments from the public for the scoping session can be submitted to the town clerk’s office through June 30.

A similar battle over trucks being allowed on the Road G beach in Southampton Village is underway.

A previous version of the story misstated the status of the lawsuits.

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