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Laurel Residents Frustrated With Delay in Bulkhead Repair

Those with obliterated bulkheads on Peconic Bay say they are confused and frustrated by Southold trustee permit process after Sandy.

Nearly a month after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East End — especially for those living on southerly coastal areas — several waterfront residents on the North Fork are still staring at bulkheads lying in almost total destruction.

Two residents along Peconic Bay in Laurel said they are frustrated and confused by a permit process they see as unnecessarily time-consuming. Janet Soukup and Pat O’Brien, both longtime residents of Laurel, said that their bulkheads protecting their properties were built in the early 1980s and were never properly permitted for the Southold Town Board of Trustees, an entity that did not have jurisdiction over Peconic Bay until 1992, according to Town Trustee James King.

King and the rest of the board were busy granting emergency permits at this month’s Trustee meeting a couple of weeks ago — but they could only do so for people who already had applications in for previous work they needed done to permitted structures.

“We’re trying to do our best to get going on emergency permits, so people can rebuild,” King said. “But anything built previously to 1992 is considered an unpermitted structure, and we recommend they go through the process right away so we can approve them for repairs.”

Pat O’Brien, whose destroyed bulkhead and deck structures are shown attached to this article, said that she’s had to hire someone to take care of all the paperwork that goes along with getting the proper permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New York State Department of Environmental and the Town of Southold. Part of that paperwork is paying for a survey of the property in question.

O’Brien estimated she will end up spending upwards of $100,000 for a new bulkhead. Her house is close to the water as it is on a sandy bluff — and she fears that after the next storm, she’ll be dangerously closer without protection.

“What’s going to happen when the snow and ice hit this winter and we still have no bulkhead?” she said.

Lori Hulse, an attorney for Southold Town, said at the meeting this month that the Trustees have to abide by the code — if a structure has never had a permit, the owner has to go through the process, even after a hurricane.

Janet Soukup, who lives next door to O’Brien, said she didn’t see why there wasn’t something that could be done before the next storm hits. She said she cannot get rolling on the permit process immediately because her “permit guy is on vacation.”

“I can’t get anything approved now until January because the board meets only once-a-month,” said Soukup, who lives in New Jersey but has summered in the same house on Peconic Bay Boulevard for decades. “I’m still not sure where I stand or what I need to do, but my house and property are very important to me, and I just want to get this thing rolling so I don’t see further damage.”

King reiterated that he understands everyone’s frustrations but on another point, he’d like to see more work done to homes at the same time instead of piecemeal, because if one section of bulkhead is fixed and the neighbors’ sections are not, that could mean more damage around the repaired bulkhead during the next storm.

“I’d like to see a lot of these permits done at the same time, so contractors can come in and go right down the line,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see a house skipped.”

Are you a resident still dealing with bulkhead repairs? Share your story in the comment boxes below.

BOB PALADIN December 01, 2012 at 02:10 AM
roger special allowances for special people? Ursurping the towns authority or not bringing the army corp of engineers to do it correctly for the benefit of the bay not just a few homeowners is reprehensible. whats the rush? I heard from a noted realtor this week that more of the PBB waterfront homes are going on the market. I for one do not want to spend any tax dollars fixing properties i dont own so others can sell and get top dollar.There is a company in the Hamptons called Chesterfield Associates or Hudson Meridian in NYC reputable builders who protect shoreline . get them involved and then people like me will back the hell off.because we know the job is being done right not the way it was .. yes we need a town hearing but not to rush to benefit the few but to discuss what really needs to be accomplished here.' if you buy shore line you expect water problems but don't make your problems ours and dont put up illegal barriers that nature just took out. you sound like a rivera type litigate and waste our tax money on shore line non issues,,,
Hope and Change December 01, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Bob Paladin, All you ever say is that you are fed up with the town and you are moving. MOVE. who can stand hearing you all the time. OMG. poor baby needs to wait like everyone else... Move already. Im sure there is another town that has plenty to complain about. GO THERE!
Paul Leone December 01, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Government dollars are not used to rebuild private bulkheads. The only issue here is that the slow permitting process (for rebulding bulkheads that have been in existence for DECADES) is threatening the safety of the homes on those properties - if another storm comes along, those homes could be swept into the sea. Southold is the ONLY township which is not issuing emergency permits to allow homeowners to undertake the expensive job of rebuilding the existing bulkheads. Yes, this is the price that those who own waterfront have to pay, and no one is complaining about that. If is the red tape that is the issue here.
BOB PALADIN December 01, 2012 at 11:27 PM
paul you miss the point the bulkheads that were in place were either legal or illegal .within the code or outside the code ,that's my problem with a rush to rebuild . lets all ascertain whether or not they are actually part of the landscape or natural scene. i bet a look the old laws will prove my suspicions correct that they were just put there to serve a few and steal the beach from others.the bulheads like jettys of old redirect of sand replenishment. its easy to build and ask forgiveness than than to research it and do it correctly...many communities are facing this dilemma ours in no exception.
BOB PALADIN December 01, 2012 at 11:36 PM
hope and change yes we are looking at other places and communities in several states because we cannot get 'equal protection' from the govt in regards to the high speed volume in front of our home each day each hour.. its a shame that the taxes we pay line some old cronies pocket around here [yellow bag b.s. as an example] and the govt refuses put up some speed abatement methods on my speedway.... i get the message ,,,, but i will get my message out LOUD AND CLEAR.. if you cant stop the speeders what CRIMES can you stop. Soon when this nice place becomes another San Bernadino Ca. [the mayor said this week load your guns and lock your doors]because we dont have the money to protect you think of me on my farm/horse/large canine sanctuary far far away.

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