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Trustees Mull Permanent Ban on New Docks in Three Mile Harbor

Thu, 11/16/2023 - 11:21

Five people spoke during the East Hampton Town Trustees’ public hearing on Monday regarding whether the body will permanently prohibit new docks in Three Mile Harbor, where docks are not prohibited now on its eastern shore, and enact other changes to its dock policy.

A one-year moratorium on permitting and approval for construction of residential docks, catwalks, floating docks, floating structures, and platforms was enacted in November 2021, following the trustees’ split vote to permit construction of a floating dock on Three Mile Harbor, the first such approval in more than three decades. The trustees used the moratorium to conduct a survey of all such structures in waters under their jurisdiction. When a year passed and the survey remained incomplete, the trustees extended the moratorium for another year. Last month, they extended it once again, through Dec. 31.

The survey is largely complete, John Aldred told his colleagues last month, but a final extension would allow the trustees to discuss their findings and related issues, and allow members of the public to make their feelings known.

The trustees banned applications for docks in most waterways under their jurisdiction in 1984, extending the prohibition to all but the eastern shore of Three Mile Harbor in 1987.

In addition to considering a permanent prohibition of new docks in all trustee waterways, the trustees are debating whether or not to change the basis of annual fees, from calculating them on a structure’s lineal length to a square-footage basis. They are also considering various matters related to pilings, including a formal definition of them, an examination of fees for pilings in trustee waterways, and a policy on the seasonal removal of pilings.

None of the residents who offered comment on Monday voiced an opinion on the question of whether or not a prohibition of new docks should be made permanent. Rather, they spoke about concerns regarding their existing docks and, for the most part, questioned the requiring of seasonal removal.

Cindi Crain, who bought a house with an existing dock on Accabonac Harbor, described a structure on her property comprising two ramps, a catwalk fixed with eight wooden posts, and a float fixed with four more. “The float and ramps can be easily removed and reinstalled,” she told the trustees. “The 12 posts are not at all easily removed or reinstalled.” To do so would require the removal of posts and pilings every year, which would be logistically problematic and environmentally unsound, she said, and would encourage owners to use cheaper materials, resulting in docks of lower quality that might be more prone to becoming unmoored during extreme weather.

Her suggestion was that the trustees “require the removal of things that are easily removed . . . but let posts, pilings, and other fixed things with minimal surface volume stay in place, so docks can remain as high quality as possible.” The other speakers seconded Ms. Crain’s remarks.

Francis Bock, the trustees’ clerk, told those attending the hearing that their comments would be taken into consideration during further discussions. Whatever policy they decide upon, it will be put to a vote of the trustees at their Dec. 11 meeting, which is likely to be their last meeting of the year.

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