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East Hampton trustees battle bid for oceanfront barrier

A lawsuit to stop an East Hampton oceanfront homeowner from building a protective barricade near Georgica Beach has pitted town trustees against the woman and officials who approved her plan or are allowing it.

In their suit, East Hampton trustees argue that Mollie Zweig does not own the land where the rock barrier, or revetment, would be built. Work on the project was halted after the trustees, who have jurisdiction over bays, obtained a temporary restraining order, but now state Supreme Court Justice Hector D. LaSalle has ruled that the order will be lifted -- unless the town trustees post a $1 million bond.

The money would cover the cost of repairing any damage to Zweig's home on West End Road if a storm hits before the case is resolved.

"If a storm the severity of Irene or Sandy hit, her house would get wave damage," said Stephen R. Angel, Zweig's attorney. "It's not just the house . . . it's the pool house and decks and the pool. You don't have to get to the house to do a million dollars of damage in that neighborhood."

Zweig's house is on a narrow spit of land between Georgica Cove and the Atlantic Ocean, just west of Lily Pond, arguably one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in East Hampton. Angel said the house was just 10 feet above sea level, adding to the danger.

The lawsuit by East Hampton's trustees is against not only Zweig and the village zoning board of appeals, but also the village code enforcement office, the East Hampton Town ZBA and the town and village government.

David Eagan, attorney for the town trustees, said the case is simply a matter of law, one made more complicated by a century-old agreement by about 50 property owners to set the oceanfront limit of their property at the average of a line where beach grass normally grows. "We have a very strong case," he said.

He said the trustees will review their options on responding to the judge's Dec. 11 ruling on the requirement for the $1 million bond, including a re-argument or a possible appeal.

In October, the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals approved Zweig's request to remove an existing rock groin and build the revetment near an existing eroded sand dune, bring in 4,000 cubic yards of new sand, plant beach grass, and put in sand fencing.

But trustees said the work was being done on land under their jurisdiction, and the village zoning board had no right to approve the work without first getting trustees' approval.

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