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Alcohol ban proposed for beaches splits East Hampton boards

Indian Wells Beach

Indian Wells Beach Credit: Flickr/Ed Costello

A plan to ban alcohol at two Amagansett beaches has ignited a debate between two elected bodies governing East Hampton Town.

The town board's proposal to ban alcohol at Indian Wells Beach and Atlantic Avenue Beach has angered some town trustees -- members of a separate nine-member body that holds jurisdiction over shorelines and waterways under a Colonial-era patent authorized by King James II of England.

"I just think this controversy didn't have to happen," said Clerk of the Trustees Diane McNally, who leads the trustees. "I think we were making significant progress, and we should have kept going the way we were."

The town board wants to ban alcohol for 1,500 feet east and west of both beaches' entrances during lifeguard hours in the summer.

Proponents say the ban will curb a party scene that emerged at Indian Wells in 2012, attracting 200 to 300 young people who are drawn by social media posts on some summer days. Supporters of the ban want to extend it to nearby Atlantic Avenue as well so partyers don't simply move there from Indian Wells.

A majority of the trustees favor a more modest ban affecting an area 500 feet east and west of Indian Wells during weekends and federal holidays in the summer. They want to allow alcohol at Atlantic Avenue Beach, where they say there have not been many complaints of drinking.

East Hampton Town Police issued 60 summonses each summer in 2012 and 2013 at Indian Wells Beach for violations such as public urination, littering and having open alcohol containers in the parking lot, Chief Michael Sarlo said.

Trustees at a public hearing Thursday, said stepped-up enforcement and new parking restrictions had already helped curb disruptions at Indian Wells.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who sits on the town board, said the board reduced the proposed ban from 2,500 to 1,500 feet east and west of the entrances in response to the trustee's proposal.

"We would always prefer to work together and in concert with you and the town trustees, and I hope we'll be able to do that," Cantwell told McNally.

The town board did not vote on the bill Thursday.

Bill Taylor said he was among a minority of trustees who supported the town board's ban.

"I think it's time we sent a message out to the people that are disrupting our beaches," he said. "You hate to see traditions and stuff weakened, but the town is getting more and more crowded."

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