Mother Nature unleashed her wrath on Southold Town beaches this winter, packing a debilitating punch to shorelines that wreaked havoc and sparked significant erosion.
To that end, town engineer Jamie Richter and Jim McMahon, director of public works, appeared before the town board at its weekly work session Tuesday to give an update on town beaches and the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the issue at hand is the opening of the on the North Road in Southold.
“Permits have been applied for with the Department of Environmental Conservation and we are waiting for approval to move forward,” he said, adding the cost to restore the beach and repair the parking lot could be extensive. The hope is to utilize the sand that already exists and re-grade the beach, the supervisor said.
If the DEC green lights the project, beach repair will commence immediately . "If not, we will need to resubmit and we will probably rely on bringing more sand to the site,” he said.
And, if the town is not allowed to use sand on site to re-grade the beach, the sand could easily cost close to $200,000, the supervisor warned.
Last week, Russell and Councilman Al Krupski visited DEC headquarters in Stony Brook and met with officials, who the supervisor said have been “very cooperative.”
The larger issue of beach erosion is being examined, as well, Russell said. “We have a multi-agency effort to look at the larger issues of and the beaches along the Sound in the easterly area.” The multi-year study will cost several million dollars but would “hopefully identify longterm solutions to a very difficult challenge,” the supervisor added.
Damage from the storm was severe on Soundview Avenue, where a road shoulder eroded “and the road is threatened,” McMahon said after Tuesday’s work session.
Land beyond the road to the water, however, is privately owned, so easements from property owners are necessary, “so the road doesn’t collapse into the Long Island Sound,” McMahon said.
Delays have ensued, due to the necessity to wait and see what FEMA will pay for and the Department of Environmental Conservation will permit. “We have to get a DEC permit to do anything to Soundview Avenue and the beaches,” McMahon said.
And, with total project cost potentially estimated at approximately $450,000, before work can commence, FEMA needs to weigh in on how much can be expected on the federal level so that the town can adjust projects accordingly, McMahon said.
Russell said options exist. For example, if the town decides to restore 20 feet of the parking lot that was eroded at the town beach, that will reduce the amount of sand needed for restoration.
McMahon said the initial estimate in sand costs was $350,000. “This is a better scenario,” he said.
Russell questioned the delay. “We had a December storm and it’s April,” he said.
Councilman Al Krupski agreed and said the time to get the ball rolling is “immediately after a storm.”
McMahon said he had initially submitted an application to the DEC “but the project scope has changed. Originally, we were just going to put sand back. That was the quick fix. It didn’t do anything for the parking lot.”
He added that it’s important the town board understand that nothing can be submitted to the DEC before the full scope of the project is determined. “That’s kind of putting the cart before the horse.”
The town has already met with the Army Corp of Engineers. And, said McMahon, work can begin as soon as the DEC issues a permit. “I think they’re going to try and expedite this,” he said.
FEMA, said Richter, could refund 87.5 percent of the approximately $440,000 project, with the town expected to pony up 12.5 percent, or approximately $50,000.
And, with FEMA “changing the way they look at beach restoration,” Russell said in the future, no reimbursement will be given unless documentation can be provided of beach conditions before and after a storm.
“This is a town asset,” Russell said. “We need to get the beach open and the road restored.”
McMahon said a Memorial Day opening of town beach is “realistic” but reminded beaches don’t officially open until the last week of June, when lifeguards are onboard.
Website Facelift Ahead
Network and systems administrator Lloyd Reisenberg and Deputy Supervisor Phillip Beltz outlined plans to explore possibilities for a new town website. The goal, Beltz said, is to offer the public a “clean” website that is easy to navigate.
Beltz went over features of what should be included on a newly revamped site, including links to town amenities, forms, tourist information, and businesses.
A discussion evolved over who would manage web content. As it stands, department heads email any changes to Reisenberg. Down the line, Russell said a “hybrid” approach would be taken, with some town employees managing their own content and others following current procedure. Councilwoman Louisa Evans said training is a key component.
Reisenberg said it’s critical to keep the site updated.
Websites in neighboring towns such as Southampton have been reviewed.
Next steps include a public meeting to gather input.
Wind Code Updates
Russell said the code committee will meet to discuss potential changes to the town’s wind energy code that would allow for 100 kilowatts or higher. in Peconic is seeking to install a higher powered machine; Russell said that increasing the kilowatts would not mean elevating height of wind turbines. Larger blades, he said, would help power the machines.
Krupski said he was in favor of the concept. “In light of what’s going on, it would be irresponsible” not to pursue green energy alternatives even further, he said, adding that perhaps even 125 kilowatts might be considered.
Russell said when the code was first created, intentions were good, but in retrospect, the allowable kilowatts were “probably too small.”
Evans discussed noise issues; larger kilowatts do not mean more noise, Russell said, reminding that a 300-foot setback is required by town law. In fact, he said while Riverhead and Southold have town codes that mirror one another, only Southold has the 300-foot setback requirement.
Higher kilowatt capability will increase productivity and is already evidenced in Vermont, where higher powered wind turbines produce “a bigger bang for the buck.”
The matter will be brought to the code committee for discussion, the supervisor said.
No Parking or Standing on Factory Avenue, Please
After reviewing a recommendation from the Southold Transportation Commission addressing traffic issues on Factory Avenue in Mattituck, the board decided to institute a no parking, no standing policy for commercial vehicles on both sides of Factory Avenue from Route 25 to the Long Island Rail Road track. The goal, the supervisor said, is to guide commercial vehicles into the Waldbaum’s parking lot.
For months, concerns have existed from residents about commercial delivery trucks that stand on Factory Avenue waiting to unload, and the issue has become more contentious in recent months due to the approval of a to be built on the corner of Factory and Route 25. Such vehicles have presented quality of life concerns as well as safety issues, said Councilman Bill Ruland, who suggested additional sidewalks be considered to prevent accidents as young mothers with strollers try to navigate the street.
Members of the have been vocal in their concerns. The commission recommended a crosswalk be established to direct pedestrian traffic from the front of the church to the existing sidewalk located on the east side of Factory Avenue.
Once the new policy is implemented, the key, Ruland said, “is enforcing it.”
At the board's regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. that night, Greenport resident Dan Durett said he was very impressed with the boards committment to move forward with installing some much-needed sidewalks on one of the most-used roads in town.
"I think it goes a long way in address the public safety of the residents — and this is the most important issue," he said.
But LeRoy Heyliger, a deacon at Unity Baptist Church on Factory Avenue since 1955, said that he was worried that delivery trucks would bust up any sort of concrete on the westerly side of the street as they have in the past.
"If something isn't done to keep trucks off those sidewalks, it'll get busted up again," he said.
"The westerly side does present a challenge," admitted Supervisor Russell, adding that getting the MTA to cooperate in making the railroad crossing safer was the bigger challenge.
"The MTA has been impossible to deal with, but it is the priority of Southold Town to make this entire area more pedestrian friendly," he said.
New Traffic Control Officer in Town
Captain Martin Flatley and Chief Carlisle Cochran listened in on a discussion by the town board regarding a new traffic control officer requested by the board. While the village would pay the officer, the town would hire the individual. Cochran had questions involving overtime and other issues; Russell recommended those concerns be directed to village attorney Joe Prokop. Flatley reminded the town also dispatches three foot patrol officers to Greenport.
Erin Schultz contributed reporting to this article.