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Town Wins Big Grant to Plan for Montauk’s Future

Thu, 12/07/2023 - 10:58
A New York State grant will help East Hampton Town formulate a long-term strategy to address the impacts of climate change on Montauk’s low-lying downtown, including the downtown beach and the hotels that line it, seen here after a storm in October.
Jane Bimson

East Hampton Town has won a $600,000 grant from the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils “to plan for the sustainable future” of Montauk’s downtown, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc announced on Tuesday.

The grant will support an effort to develop community consensus around proactive measures to reduce coastal vulnerability and revitalize the area to protect the tourism industry and the town’s economy, and to support a resilient year-round community, according to a statement issued from Town Hall as Mr. Van Scoyoc discussed the award during the town board’s meeting.

The town’s Waterfront Advisory Committee, the Nature Conservancy, and the Montauk Chamber of Commerce “are critical partners in that project,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. The goals, he said, are to create data-backed, legally-sustainable, community-supported options for building and zoning codes for hazard mitigation intervention, technical modeling to inform recommendations specific to properties in the area, and best management practices for property owners to voluntarily reduce their climate risk. “The community engagement program is a really important part of that, to create ongoing public-private partnerships and awareness about the risks, and transparency in existing and proposed rules and regulations for sustainable and resilient development and redevelopment,” he said.

The project is expected to begin in May 2024 and take approximately three years to complete.

The project description prepared by the town cites coastal erosion, flooding, and sea level rise as threats to the beaches and other natural resources that drive the town’s tourist economy. “Without a long-term sustainable plan for coastal resiliency, dune enhancement, road infrastructure, and lifeline facilities (power, water, wastewater) enhancements, the existence of central Montauk is threatened,” it reads. “Storm activity coupled with sea level rise, flooding, and major water breaches are projected to erode the land where the only grocery store is located, undermine waterfront motels and cooperatives, contribute to loss of natural features, and cause this economic engine to become an economically depressed area from inaction in the face of a changing climate.”

Under the grant, Natural Resources and Planning Department staff, in coordination with the Waterfront Advisory Committee and local partners, will develop strategies for reducing coastal hazards and climate risk vulnerability and restoring natural resources, including possible building and zoning code updates, and work to attain public consensus on the plan.

Goals include maintaining public access to waterfront recreation areas, using natural features to mitigate flooding, avoiding future economic losses due to extreme weather events and other climate change impacts, and facilitating voluntary proactive measures by property owners to reduce their risk.

A socioeconomic cost-benefit analysis will examine the impacts of implementing code changes versus taking no action. There is to be public discussion of development and redevelopment options for the hamlet, using partnerships with the chamber of commerce and the Nature Conservancy to assist in facilitating public conversation and input and in the formation of a steering committee comprising Montauk residents and property owners along with members of environmental and business organizations.

The resulting plan is meant to augment the town’s coastal resiliency planning through the Coastal Assessment Resiliency Plan, or CARP, which identified downtown Montauk as a priority location in need of mitigation to address the impacts of climate change. The new plan will update the town’s adopted local waterfront revitalization plan, or LWRP.

The grant is one of 47 such grants for Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs issued statewide totaling $16.4 million. East Hampton’s award is among the largest, according to the statement from Town Hall, and is the highest of six awards issued to municipalities on Long Island.


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