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Hearing on plans for rock walls in Nissequoge postponed

Hearings have been postponed for a Nissequogue woman who wants to build rock walls on the Long Island Sound bluffs to protect two homes she owns from erosion, Mayor Richard Smith said.

Homeowner Sharon Macdonald’s attorney, Glenn Gruder, said he’d requested the postponement after learning of a stop-work order the village issued this spring. The village building inspector had determined that a contractor began unpermitted construction at Macdonald’s property at 4 Bluff Rd.

“My understanding is he’s obeyed it, and that’s what we need to discuss,” Gruder said Monday.

The hearing will likely be rescheduled for June.

Also Monday, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said the agency is planning a meeting with several parties involved in the matter, including Nancy Fetherston, a village resident who opposes the walls; officials from the village and Town of Smithtown; and New York State and Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric studies, whose dean, Larry Swanson, has criticized the plan to build walls.

Gruder was set to ask the village board to overrule a volunteer board that oversees waterfront development in Nissequogue and neighboring Head of the Harbor and had barred his client from building 800 feet of boulder wall at the toe of the bluffs.

That board, the Joint Coastal Management Commission, found the walls would violate decades-old preservation policies, wouldn’t guarantee a long-term solution to erosion and could even worsen it nearby, encouraging neighbors to shore up as well.

Smith has said he is likely to side with Macdonald. “Every application presents different circumstances and challenges, but in those instances where property owners, particularly whose residence or significant enjoyment of property is threatened, that is of paramount importance,” he said Monday.

Experts including Swanson and Steve Resler, who oversaw coastal policy for New York State, have warned in interviews that the walls could harm the coast around Nissequogue and Stony Brook Harbor by interrupting the natural flow of sediment that replenishes some areas and depletes others.

DEC regional director Carrie Meek Gallagher, whose agency has already approved construction permits for the walls, said in April that her agency had tried to find “a balance” between protecting natural resources and private property.

“There will be a little bit of interruption,” she said, but the wall “still allows the natural transportation of sand.”

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