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Homeowners on Fire Island may face red tape

Chris Gurl looks to what's left of his

Chris Gurl looks to what's left of his beachfront home as seasonal residents were allowed to return for the first time after the storm. (Nov. 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Ines Ibanes bought her oceanfront home on Fire Island in March, only to have it swept out to sea during superstorm Sandy's tidal scourge of the barrier land mass.

Her house was one of seven in the Davis Park community -- and an estimated 150 homes Islandwide -- destroyed by the storm.

On Saturday, Ibanes and other oceanfront homeowners were rocked again. Town of Brookhaven building and environmental conservation officials told them the road to rebuilding will be long and riddled with obstacles, with no guarantee of their being allowed to start over.

Fire Island homes on the ocean are in the coastal erosion hazard area, and because it is illegal to rebuild storm-damaged homes in that area, "all of those houses that were destroyed will probably initially get denied," said Martin Haley, the town's commissioner for the department of building and fire prevention.

While he was optimistic that organized homeowners who are prepared to navigate a gauntlet of applications and appeals could be granted permission to rebuild, he said securing a permit to reconstruct a home that has been completely swept away could pose a big challenge.

"That's going to be the most onerous situation," Haley said. "I think at the end of the day we will be able to get you where you need to be, but I can't promise anything."

At a meeting in lower Manhattan on Saturday, Brookhaven officials held a workshop for property owners from that town's portion of Fire Island, including communities from Ocean Bay Park east, where Sandy was particularly destructive.

About 100 property owners came for information. Worried that oceanfront homes more than half-destroyed would be condemned, many came with concerns about how they could work the system to be allowed to rebuild.

Chris Gurl, 43, an Ocean Bay Park homeowner who said he wants to rebuild no matter what, came to find out how. His house was rocked off its pilings and left in a slanted heap on the beach.

Five agencies must approve a permit to rebuild in the coastal erosion area: the Suffolk County health department for water and septic systems; and the town's planning, building and highway departments, plus fire prevention, Haley said.

Tom Carrano, Brookhaven assistant waterways management supervisor, said the Fire Island National Seashore agency also "has the right to condemn anything . . . if they don't like what we do."

After the meeting, Ibanes said the warnings didn't deter her. She still wants to rebuild.

But she added, "It will take a lot of effort and time."


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