“To be or not to be,” that is the question concerning a historic dock that’s now deteriorating on Gardiner’s Bay facing the houses of the Broadview Property Owners Association. The history of this dock and the grandeur is in the past. It had been in its prime in the 1930s, when Dr. Dennistoun Bell would park his 70-foot yacht there when the waters were deeper then they are now. This is the same Dr. Bell who first bought 155 acres there in Amagansett in 1915, adding hundreds more over the years. Then some 15 years later he built the dock after giving the East Hampton Town Trustees many acres near Fresh Pond for a park in exchange for the beach in front of his property on Albert’s Landing to Barnes Hole Road.
By the way, Dan Rattiner swears the good Dr. Bell was a dentist who actually saw patients at his estate, in a prime dental chair no doubt. However, we now toil in the 21st century with 21st-century decisions based on limited tax dollars, limited assets, erosion issues and many problems to be addressed. The homeowners of the 500 acres that once comprised the Bell estate property want to restore the dock in some form. A formal request is underway to the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals about granting a natural resources permit and a variance to allow Broadview to reconstruct a portion of the dock with a shorter version and to remove a 30-foot-long section resembling the letter L that runs parallel to the shoreline. The problem seems to be the unknown erosion factor. In the last 30 years, from Montauk to Westhampton Beach, East Enders have been schooled about erosion, sometimes by hardship, caused by the consequences of changing structures that protrude into bays and the ocean.
At the zoning board meeting, many expressed their opinions, including Dr. Lee Weishar, a senior scientist with the Woods Hole Group, who said erosion would increase if the dock were removed because it “has been holding land form back over the past few years.” He added, “In the first year, the loss would be 160 linear feet in this land form, and within three years there would be 20 to 50 feet left.” Also weighing in on the issue at that meeting was Richard Warren, of Inter-Science, a land-use consulting firm, who said the proposed changes to the structure (dock) would in fact “preserve what’s important and the functionality of it.”
The new proposal is fascinating because the proposed dock would be, in fact, the widest in East Hampton Town and perhaps the longest, but it would still not extend into navigable waters. Others reportedly voiced opinions that if the dock were left to erode on its own as it has been doing all these years, the changes would be more natural, gradual, predictable and of course less expensive. With $60,000 already spent on surveys and lawyers the question is, will the zoning board allow this project to proceed with cost estimates in the neighborhood of $600,000? That is a hefty price for the Broadview Property Owners Association, who in the end must battle environmentalists, neighbors and town government to see this through. [/expand]