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.”
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