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Suffolk official: Some Fire Island homes may avoid dune project buyouts

An aerial view of Davis Park on Fire

An aerial view of Davis Park on Fire Island on Aug. 5, 2013. Credit: Doug Kuntz

Most of the 19 oceanfront homes slated for buyouts in Fire Island's Davis Park community to make way for a dune project may be spared thanks to more precise mapping, a Suffolk County official said Wednesday.

"We may be able to save 16," said Gilbert Anderson, the county's public works commissioner.

Anderson cautioned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which developed plans for the $207 million, 12-mile dune, must sign off on the changes.

The Army Corps initially targeted a total of 41 Fire Island properties for federal buyouts in order to rebuild the dunes and widen beaches ravaged by superstorm Sandy.

Of the other homes slated for buyouts, 19 are in Ocean Bay Park. Officials don't believe any of those can be spared.

Suffolk's Geographic Information System maps of Davis Park used to engineer the project turned out to have "inaccurate" property line information, Anderson said.

Recent property surveys in the community showed that as few as two of the targeted oceanfront homes might have to be bulldozed, he said.

"The surveys tied the actual dune location to the house. That's when it became evident that, yeah, we may be able to do something there," Anderson said.

The Army Corps is expected to decide the homes' fate by the end of this month, Anderson said. An Army Corps spokesman was not immediately available.

A total of $45.5 million had been set aside for buyouts or relocations.

A longtime Davis Park homeowner, Robert Spencer, 86, of Manhattan, said he's waiting to learn whether his home will escape the bulldozer -- but not overly optimistic.

"Sure I'm hopeful, like I'm hopeful I'll live to be 138 without another illness," he quipped.

"They are very vague about it," Spencer said of Suffolk's latest notice on the project. "They say 'If, If, If.' "

Anderson said the 16 homeowners would have to agree to relocate -- on their lots or nearby -- and provide the government with an easement for the dune project.

Some homeowners targeted for buyouts have hired lawyers to fight anticipated eminent domain proceedings.

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