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Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee Demands Native Plants on White Sand Beach

Posted on 09 July 2013

By Kathryn G. Menu

Lawrence and Paula Bayes approached the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee Monday night for what they believed would be a simple application to reconstruct a dock damaged during Superstorm Sandy at their 28 Long Point Road home.

And it likely would have been simple. That is if it were not for the large expanse of sandy beach literally stretching the entire length of the property from the residence to the beach looking out over Morris Cove.

The Bayes’ application is to reconstruct the residential dock in kind, replacing six pilings and rebuilding a deck with ThruFlow decking. The project also entails replacing a water line that broke during the storm.

The boards appeared to favor the application as it was presented. That is until board member Jeff Peters noted the Bayes’ property is almost entirely a pristine, white-sand beach – with no natural vegetative buffer zone in place.

Under the village code, any construction that requires a wetlands permit also requires the Harbor Committee to impose the requirement of a 75-foot natural, vegetative buffer to wetlands. Due to the often-undersized lots found in Sag Harbor, the committee is often empowered to reduce that buffer zone to a minimum of 25-feet.

According to Bayes, he was required to plant 20-feet of native vegetation on the beach five years ago, but within a matter of six months the buffer was 90-percent gone.

Bayes said the vegetation was impacted by baymen and other clammers coming close to the shoreline in an effort to churn up steamers.

“They are trying to find as much virgin territory as they can and by running their outboard motors there within six to eight months everything was gone, except maybe for some grasses,” said Bayes.

“This is a problem,” said Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait of the lack of native vegetation on the property. The committee, he noted, is not being asked to give Bayes a permit to build a dock, but a wetlands permit – meaning its first task is to ensure the health of the wetlands and the waterfront.

“This committee will find there is no problem with you repairing this dock,” said Tait. The lack of vegetation, he added, is another issue.

“It’s ludicrous for me to replace these plantings,” said Bayes. “Within eight months they will all be gone again.”

“We just had another applicant in front of us who wanted to replace a bulkhead and we are making him do a buffer zone,” replied Tait. “All I want to do is be consistent across the board.”

“This is an example of a piece of property that has zero buffer zone,” he added.

“I think he should go ahead and get his dock, but we should do something about all this white sand,” said Peters.

Bayes stressed he would need some action by the committee in order to start rebuilding the dock as he has already rented the house out – with the promise of dock facilities – at the end of August. He continued to argue spending money on the replanting would be fruitless and would not make any sense as a result of clammers coming so close to the shoreline.

“I am sensitive to the fact you have a rental coming in, but I want to be consistent applying for the wetlands law,” said Tait.

Stephen Clarke, Jr. added he was concerned with how long it took the Bayes to come before the board. Superstorm Sandy hit the region in October. Clarke said he would prefer to weigh in on the issue with an attorney on hand.

“If you give me the dock permit, I will plant what you want,” said Bayes.

Tait said he would require a 25-foot native buffer from the high water line on the beach, which Bayes agreed to. The committee voted on the wetlands permit that night, but only subject to a planting plan that is deemed acceptable by the committee.

Another resident coming to the committee for Superstorm Sandy-related repairs Monday night was Josh Schwartz, of Redwood Road.

Schwartz approached the board last month asking for the removal of a stone retaining wall and the construction of a new 104-foot bulkhead in its place. The existing retaining wall, said Schwartz, was already showing signs of wear before Sandy hit and the project is now a necessity to protect his property.

Last month, the board agreed the bulkhead was necessary, but asked Schwartz to develop a full 25-foot vegetative buffer landward of the bulkhead rather than just 15-feet of buffer. On Monday, Schwartz came back with a planting plan. Peters asked he revise the plan to include a greater variety of species rather than just using switch grass. Peters also suggested Schwartz look at creating a denser planting to ensure it fills in within one year  – the village standard.

“We would like to get more variety of vegetation and make sure what is going to grow in the area will grow,” said Tait. “I hate to send you back to the drawing board though.”

The committee instead agreed to approve the wetlands permit, pending a valid planting plan.

Tait noted one thing the committee has seen in recent years is planting plans that literally have not taken root – dying out over the course of a year.

“And no one is following through on code enforcement so our buffer zones are essentially going right back to beach,” he said.

Committee member Dr. Tom Halton suggested the board work on a brochure that could be handed out at the building department level regarding the kinds of native plants the committee would like to see and the plant size.

Tait and Peters agreed to come up with that brochure together to present to the village board for approval.

Lastly, Neal Simon and Joyce Kleinberg were approved for a seven by 12-foot swim spa at their John Street residence 42-feet landward of the wetlands.

The next meeting of the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee will be held on August 12 at 5 p.m.




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