A standing-room-only crowd of about 200 packed a Southampton Village Board of Trustees public hearing Thursday night to protest a controversial proposal to limit the number of four-wheel drive vehicles allowed on the Road G beach during the summer.
“This goes back generations,” Denyse McNamara said of the tradition of 4x4 vehicles parking on that beach, as she headed for the hearing at the Southampton Cultural Center. The venue was changed from the Southampton Village Hall to accommodate the anticipated crowd.
Before starting the public hearing, Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley announced that there are two lawsuits filed by residents pending in New York State Supreme Court against the village relating to the 4x4 issue.
Nica Strunk, a Southampton attorney representing nine residents on Meadow Lane in one lawsuit, displayed photographs on easels to the trustees illustrating 250 vehicles crowding the beach on a Labor Day weekend.
No vehicles should be allowed on the beach, Strunk said, because they’re not allowed anyplace else on beaches in Southampton. She said the proposal to allow only 175 4x4s on the beach at a time was not acceptable.
Strunk said her clients want no vehicles to be allowed on the beach because they are living with an “all-day parking lot.” Her remarks were met by groans from the audience.
She added there had been no studies done about the environmental and other impacts of driving on the beach, but Epley said a study was going to be done.
“These nine homeowners are providing the beach driving needs of the entire town of Southampton,” Strunk said. She added the village is “in full control of the situation” when her clients are “paying taxes on a public parking lot,” which she said is “extremely unfair.”
Strunk added, “This situation on privately owned, privately taxed land does not work.”
There is also drinking associated with the tradition of 4x4s being allowed on the beach, Strunk said. “The public intoxication levels are very high and the village has not done any sobriety checks as far as I know,” she said.
But McNamara said the Road G beach had historically been the local gathering place for four-wheel-drive vehicles. “Slowly we’re losing everything we hold dear,” McNamara said. “There are no other places where you can drive on the beach.”
McNamara admitted, “There are a lot of trucks on Sunday but during the week there aren’t that many at all.”
She also said there are problems with people who drive on the beach using it as a bathroom and acknowledged that is “making it hard” for law-abiding residents.
Epley said the trustees want to try to come up with a solution that both sides can live with.
“Our purpose is to reach a balance,” Epley said.