The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals' approval of a sea wall in front of a Lazy Point house has the town trustees crying foul.
In a suit filed late last month in State Supreme Court against the appeals board and the homeowners, the East Hampton Town Trustees claim the ZBA is allowing the a coastal erosion structure to be built on publicly owned land in Amagansett.
In a 3-to-2 vote on Nov. 30, the zoning board granted variances and a Natural Resources Special Permit to Joshua Young and Christine Lemieux that allows for construction of a 147-linear foot stone armor revetment backed by a 32-foot vinyl seawall in front of 157 Mulford Ln., a property hardhit by erosion.
The ZBA's determination is illegal, according to the town trustees who assert in the suit that "a substantial portion" of the rock revetment would be built on an area past the "high water line" of Gardiner's Bay, the northern boundary of the homeowner's property.
"We don't believe the ZBA possesses the legal authority to allow any structures on someone else's land. Clearly, this is beyond the high water mark," said David Eagan, whom the trustees hired to represent them in the petition. While the trustees believe they own the land the revetment is supposed to be built on, Eagan said it is not necessary to prove ownership in this case.
The trustees also claim the ruling violates the standards for granting such a special permit for coastal erosion set forth in the East Hampton Town Zoning Code, as well as the State Environmental Quality Review Act, when the ZBA "failed to identify the relevant areas of environmental concern."
The ZBA's determination was granted, according to the suit, on its "erroneous findings that the existing residence on the Young property was in 'imminent danger,' when in fact when the ZBA had previously granted Young the necessary relief to demolish the existing residence and construct a new 1,719-square foot residence on pilings in a more landward location."
That application, approved in March 2012, including a denial to build a similar revetment. "They reapplied in June for a different revement as if they never had the prior approval," Eagan said. Under the standards for a Natural Resources Special Permit, necessary for any hard structures, applicants have to exhaust "soft alternatives, such as beach replenishment and relocation," he added.
When the homeowners came back before the ZBA, little had changed, Eagan said. A State Department of Environmental Conservation had been granted and Eagan believes the zoning board members who voted in favor were "using the DEC permit as a change in circumstance, which its not... The DEC permit did not enforce the town code standards," he said.
"It's really kind of shocking. I think the board was unduly influenced by the DEC permit and I think the board was unduly influenced by the severity of Superstorm Sandy. But, the law doesn't account for that."
There is no monetary judgement being sought in the case. Eagan said he hopes it "sends the message that everyone in town, including town government, needs to respect the town trustees' jurisdiction."
The case is on the court calendar in February.