With Southampton Town adopting last week a resolution to create a map, plan and report for a proposed Sagaponack Beach Erosion Control District —a self-taxing district which would fund a beach erosion district, Sagaponack resident Gary Ireland is one step closer on his mission to protect the shores his family has lived on for centuries.
According to Ireland, over 45 years ago the Army Corps of Engineers attempted to protect the eastern beaches on Long Island by widening and lengthening the sand dunes, hoping to create a buffer against future natural disasters like the hurricane of 1938. Urged by beachfront property owners, the Army erected groins in East Hampton to keep the sand in place. Unfortunately, said Ireland, the groins caused erosion farther west along the shore in Sagaponack.
“The tide carries the sand [down the shore] like a river. If you put up groins, the sand builds up on one side and the sand is eroded on the other side. In Sagaponack, we are down drift from these incredibly large groins,” explained Ireland in a previous interview.
According to Sagaponack resident, Alan Stillman, who helped the town support the creation of the district, the area will tentatively include 61 oceanfront properties. Almost everyone Stillman has spoken with is in favor of the measure, he notes, with one exception. A single resident, he admitted, said they couldn’t afford additional taxes. The district would tax residents for beach erosion mitigation projects and a district advisory committee would be able to apply for federal grants following a storm. Creation of the district, however, is subject to a permissive referendum, meaning if enough residents disfavor the district, it will be put to a vote.
For Ireland, the creation of the district would give his beachfront community some much needed political clout to hold the Army Corps accountable for creating the erosion problem in the area.
“What the government is asking is for us to clean up their mess,” Ireland remarked.
“Sixty people are a lot stronger than one at a time,” Stillman added, of the proposed district’s strength in numbers. “Don’t forget the beaches are some of the finest in the country and they create taxes and property values.”
Once the map, plan and report are completed, the town board will meet to set a public hearing. On September 14, the town board will schedule a public hearing for the proposed Bridgehampton Beach Erosion Control District, which tentatively includes 91 properties.