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Deep Dive on Bay View Proposal

Thu, 05/02/2024 - 07:44
Plans from the Grecco property on Bayview Avenue on Napeague show that the house would need to be essentially walled off on three sides to be protected.

The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals agreed with the town Planning Department last month that a detailed and lengthy environmental review is necessary for a proposal to build a 108-foot stone revetment, 83-foot PVC retaining wall, and new house at 117 Bay View Avenue on Napeague. This despite accusations of complicity between the board and the Planning Department from Brian Matthews, the attorney for Nicholas Grecco, who owns the parcel.

Mr. Matthews further accused the Planning Department of ignoring environmental experts brought in by Mr. Grecco as they reviewed the application per the state’s environmental laws. “It shows how inadequate their review has been and that their conclusions have been predetermined from the outset,” he said at the April 16 meeting.

He pressed the board to separate from the Planning Department’s recommendations, warning it that the wall of geocubes protecting the Grecco residence were degrading and wouldn’t survive the process, further endangering the house there. “You do not have to go down the road the Planning Department is advocating for you to go down,” he said.

“We’re sitting here as an independent board,” Roy Dalene, the chairman of the Z.B.A., said to Mr. Matthews. “So, please don’t make that inference.”

Highlighting its independence, the board spent an hour poring through an environmental assessment form prepared by the Planning Department and determining individually if it agreed with the department’s judgement. The form contains questions designed to lead municipal boards to a conclusion about a project’s environmental impacts. The board didn’t differ from the department’s assessment on any question, concluding that the revetment, reconstructed house, sanitary system, and PVC wall could be environmentally problematic.

“I give deference to the applicant’s experts because I think they were very firm in their explanations, but I also know it seems rather logical to me that this is the kind of damage that happens when we do this kind of revetment, this hardening of the beaches,” said Ed Johann, a board member.

Theresa Berger, a Z.B.A. member, agreed. “We know that there is damage done.” She said none of Mr. Grecco’s experts could point to a specific case, despite all their documentation, where a revetment in the Town of East Hampton had no negative impact.

“To me there is no question that the hardened shoreline structures have a long-term impact on the shoreline,” said Mr. Dalene. He said even some of the experts brought forth by Mr. Grecco had built erosion control structures previously that have caused damage. “We have evidence.”

Neighbors have strongly opposed the project, largely because they fear continued loss of access to the beach at the end of the block. The wall of geocubes was built by Mr. Grecco in 2018 and was meant to be temporary, but it remains. Mr. Matthews used the frustration about the geocubes in his argument. “Adopting a positive declaration” — which would require further environmental review — “does nothing to expedite their removal,” he said. But for the board it wasn’t simply about the removal of the geocubes, but about the long-term health of the marsh.

“The Planning Department has identified several moderate to severe potential adverse environmental impacts that have resulted from the construction of the existing geocube seawall and the observation of this structure’s interaction with the shoreline over the past five years,” read the environmental assessment form. “These impacts include the diminishment in quality of the beaches and wetlands of the area, direct sedimentation of the Class I freshwater wetland adjacent to the property from the removal of the initial sand cover over the seawall and its deposition into the wetland, loss of public access to and along the shoreline, impacts to public parklands and to scenic resources.”

While Mr. Matthews complained about the length of time it has taken the board to review the application, Ms. Berger made the point that while the application has been open for three years, for eight months, Mr. Matthews had asked the town to delay. Despite his objections, the board was unanimous in its vote for the strict environmental review.

A March 29 letter from Mr. Matthews to the board threatened legal action if the board did so based on what he felt was an incomplete record. “Such actions will not withstand any level of judicial scrutiny and are in fact independently actionable on their own accord.”

Meanwhile, 500 feet east of Bay View Avenue, an application on Mulford Lane was unanimously denied by the board at its April 9 meeting. Perhaps highlighting the importance of the wetlands along Cherry Point on Napeague, the Planning Department had recommended denial. While the addition to the house, at only 160 feet, was modest, the board took pains to explain that the proximity of a septic system to the wetlands was the driver of the denial.

The applicant, Brett Loscalzo, proposed to place an I/A septic system approximately 17 feet from the wetlands, when the minimum setback is 150 feet. The board didn’t want to approve such placement, fearing a precedent could be set. In addition, Mr. Loscalzo sought approval for clearing within three feet of the same wetland, when 50 feet is required.

“This property does not allow itself for any expansion of any kind, and I have strong feelings about that,” Mr. Dalene said in issuing the denial.

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