Quogue Village (New York) Rejects Proposal To Form Erosion Control Taxing District On Friday

New York - The Quogue Village Board voted down a proposal on Friday to form an erosion control taxing district that, if approved, would have funded a beach nourishment project to restore the eastern portion of the village’s public beach.

The board agreed that while the beach nourishment project would have been effective in combating the existing erosion, it posed too much of a financial burden on the 43 Dune Road homeowners who would have been required to pay for it.

Although it was never determined whether the homeowners would be charged based on total assessed value, linear footage of ocean frontage, or a combination of both, estimates—prepared by Save the Dunes Foundation—showed that assessments would range from $20,000 to more than $65,000 annually for 10 years.

If approved, the plan, outlined by Westhampton Beach-based coastal geologist Aram Terchunian, would have dumped nearly 536,000 cubic yards of sand along a 1.1-mile stretch of beach spanning from the Quogue Beach Club to the village’s eastern boundary.

The proposed project—a scaled down version of a previous $15 million beach nourishment proposal from 2007—would have piggy-backed on a larger U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to reconstruct 4.5 miles of beach between Hampton Bays and East Quogue.

The previous village proposal called for the restoration of a 2.7-mile stretch—requiring 1.1 million cubic yards of sand—and was estimated to cost close to $15 million, according to village officials.

That, too, was shot down by the Village Board.

Based on an assessment done by a seven-member beach advisory committee—which was established by the Village Board to determine whether the initial $15 million proposal was necessary, it was concluded “that the financial burden of undertaking a publicly funded beach nourishment program [was] not presently warranted.”

The Trustees’ recent decision to reject the latest proposal raised similar concerns. It read: “We believe that the cost imposed on the minority is too great.”

Additionally, the Village Board noted that based on beach monitoring undertaken by the village in 2015 and 2017, the eastern portion of the beach was not in crisis.

However, Dune Road homeowner Paul Napoli strongly disagreed, noting that the beach needs to be analyzed based on a 10 to 30 year time span.

“You’ll see that there’s been a mass erosion,” he said. “You can see the crisis plainly and clearly by looking at the proper time frame.”

According to a recent survey of the 43 Dune Road homeowners, 24 supported the establishment of an erosion control taxing district, 10 were opposed and nine had not offered an opinion.

Project opponents, including Dune Road homeowners Andrew and Karen Ciricione, have repeatedly raised concerns that the proposed dredging offshore of Quogue would have had an adverse effect on the beach and the surrounding properties.

However, the Village Trustees did not share that position.

In fact, they pointed to the success of a $26 million beach nourishment project in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack that was completed in 2014.

At a recent public hearing to discuss the erosion control district, Bob Freedman, a member of Save the Dunes, noted that the Town of Southampton was just recently awarded the Best Restored Beach in America by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association for that restoration.

According to the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, the beaches have statistically seen zero loss of the 2.5 million cubic yards of sand pumped ashore.

Additionally, in their written decision, the Village Trustees pointed to the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—both of which support dredging and beach nourishment projects.

In fact, dredging is already slated to occur off shore in connection to an effort by the Army Corps of Engineers.

In July 2016, the state agency issued a draft general reevaluation report for the long-considered Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, or FIMP, which detailed several recommendations to fortify the south shore against future storm damage.

A revised copy of that report, issued in May 2019, includes plans to bypass sand around the Shinnecock Inlet via dredging. The agency also recommends the aforementioned beach nourishment project in Hampton Bays and East Quogue.

In a recent interview, Mr. Terchunian attributed the village beach’s erosion to the Shinnecock Inlet, noting that it intercepts the longshore littoral transport of sand and traps approximately 50 percent of the migrating sand. Between 1938 and 2000, he estimated that the inlet has trapped nearly 9 million cubic yards of sand.

Mr. Terchunian declined to comment on the Village Board’s decision to reject the scaled back beach nourishment proposal.

The Village Board, in its written decision, noted that the work to be completed as part of the FIMP “should have some positive effects for Quogue.”

Quogue homeowner Kevin McAllister shared a similar perspective.

In an interview last week, he had suggested that village officials postpone the beach nourishment project until after the Army Corps completes its work, adding that a beach nourishment project may not in fact be necessary.

However, Dune Road homeowner Paul Napoli, an environmental lawyer with Napoli Shkolnik in Melville, was not sure that the Army Corps’s mitigation efforts would be enough to combat the beach’s erosion.

“Any measures to restore the natural order and to correct problems with the inlet will benefit everyone,” he said. “Is it going to be enough to address all the issues in Quogue? I hope so, but only time will tell.”

If the proposal resurfaces in the future, the Quogue Village Board wrote in its written decision that it would reconsider the proposal only when there is “substantial public support for it.”

Board members added that the debate on whether to consent to the establishment of an erosion control district had raised a great deal of controversy among the village’s residents, noting that it would only get worse if the nourishment project was approved.

“The issue is an extremely divisive one for the village,” the decision read. “There is no reason to believe that the divisiveness will not continue, and that would not be healthy for the village as a whole.”

However, Mr. Napoli was worried that the decision would have detrimental consequences. “I’m afraid that one day we’re going to be saying ‘I told you so,’” he said.

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