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Southampton Village sets another hearing in truck/beach feud

Southampton Village Hall is pictured on May 24,

Southampton Village Hall is pictured on May 24, 2012. Credit: Erin Geismar

Another public hearing will be scheduled before any decision is made on a controversial proposal to limit the number of 4x4s allowed on the Road G beach in Southampton Village during the summer.

The tradition of trucks being permitted to park and drive around the 2,000-linear-foot stretch of beach on Meadow Lane known by locals as “the picnic area” goes back generations. But Southampton officials are facing two lawsuits from residents who say they don’t want to see it continue to be used as a “parking lot” or “roadway” for 4x4s.

Officials are proposing to limit the number of trucks to 175.

Residents who disagree with placing limits made the request for another public hearing last week when the third and final session of public hearings on the matter was about to close.

They asked that another hearing be opened after an environmental study on the impact of trucks on the beach was completed. No date has been set for the completion of the study.

“A lot of good information came out in the last three meetings [as part of the first public hearing],” Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said as he closed the third session on June 9.

He added that written comments for the first public meeting could still be submitted until the next board of trustees meeting on June 21.

A similar controversy had been aired over the past week in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, where a trial stemming from a 2009 lawsuit involving trucks on Napeague Beach in Amagansett was heard. That trial ended June 13, but a decision is not expected to be reached before September.

Epley, who said he enjoys being able to drive on the beach, said there’s a rough road ahead. He said the Southampton trustees are trying to come up with a law that would impose some limit on the 4x4 numbers to keep the two lawsuits from proceeding any further.

“I can’t ever remember seeing a meeting filled like this,” Epley said as he looked out over the crowd of more than 100 attendees, mostly supporters of trucks on the beach, at a meeting last Thursday at the Southampton Cultural Center. About 200 had attended the two previous public hearing sessions.

“The fact that you’re still here and continuing the dialogue says a lot,” Epley added.

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