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Long IslandTowns

Southampton Town OKs $24M beach widening

Coastal erosion imperils homes on the beach in

Coastal erosion imperils homes on the beach in Sagaponack. (Feb. 9, 2005) Photo Credit: Newsday / David L. Pokress

The Southampton Town Board has authorized a $24 million beach nourishment project, to be paid almost entirely by beachfront homeowners in two taxing districts.

The unanimous vote Tuesday was expedited, in part, as a response to additional beachfront erosion last month from superstorm Sandy. The plan calls for pumping about 2 million cubic yards of sand over a 6-mile stretch of beach from Flying Point Road to Town Line Road.

"This enables property owners to protect their property" said Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

For years, homeowners have struggled to secure their beachfront properties, often trucking in sand in large bags. In 2010, special taxing districts were created to allow those homeowners to raise their own taxes to manage the erosion. In the past 20 years, the beach has eroded, on average, by about 3.5 feet each year, according to the First Coastal Corp., which homeowners hired to study the erosion.

A referendum in the two taxing districts, Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, will be held in 60 to 75 days. It needs only the approval of a majority of homeowners voting, town officials said.

If it passes, Throne-Holst said, property owners would be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements. After a major storm, costs would be split between the agency and owners in the special districts, with FEMA paying 90 percent.

In October, the town delayed the project while it waited for the legislature to approve tax exemptions for two parcels that currently have easements.

But after Sandy, town officials and residents said they were assured by Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I- Sag Harbor) that the exemptions would be approved.

"There was a significant erosion that occurred and threatened not just the public areas but also private homes," said town Councilman Chris Nuzzi.

Other fixes, such as dune nourishment, are less cost-effective, town officials said, while beach widening is a more permanent solution.

In Bridgehampton, the district consists of 84 parcels with a combined assessed value of $826 million; in Sagaponack, 57 parcels are worth $977 million.

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