Orient pier project still a hot topic

The debate continues over the entrance to the Orient Wharf Company’s iconic pier at the end of Village Lane, with neighbors questioning maintenance issues they say were not addressed in the permit that was granted for a wooden deck installed there last summer.

They’ve petitioned the Town Board, insisting all of that necessary maintenance work gets done, and they’re slated to make a presentation to the board during its work session next Tuesday morning.

The issue originally was the crumbling asphalt pavement at the entrance to the pier, put there to replace a decrepit bridge more than 20 years ago. It was placed over fill that included scraps of metal, nails and cement.

The wharf’s owners asked the Southold Town Trustees in July to allow them to remove both the asphalt and the underlying fill, replace the fill with clean sand and install the wooden deck. They also sought permission to shorten a town drainage pipe, which neighbors north of the wharf opposed. They said it would direct runoff from Village Lane onto their properties, wash away the fill under the new timber deck and erode the beach south of the wharf.

Neighbors have long been suspicious of the wharf company’s plans; their doubts predate the company’s two-year-old proposal to reconstruct the pier and dredge the area around the docks that surround the pier. They believe that the wharf company is attempting to duck a full environmental review of the proposal by breaking up the project into several components and seeking permits for them individually. They are now asking the Town Board to overturn the permits.

There are those who support the overall proposal, which is pending before the Town Trustees. Some Orient residents, including members of the Orient Yacht Club — whose clubhouse sits at the end of the pier — have said in letters to the trustees last summer that the boat slips are shoaling in and the water quality is declining. That, they claim, is partly the result of the tidal flow being restricted by the fill that was placed under the pier entrance more than 20 years ago.

Though the wharf company included dredging in its plan two years ago, it does not have a formal application to dredge the area.

Linton Duell, the Orient Wharf Company’s treasurer, told the trustees in July that the fill was put under a bridge at the site by Floyd King, who owned the property in the 1960s and 1970s, because Mr. King didn’t have the money to rebuild the bridge. At that time, Mr. King owned properties to the north and south of the wharf entrance, and — according to Mr. Duell — he benefited from the accretion of sand there after the fill restricted the water flow under the bridge.

Private homes now stand on both his former properties. The owners, Claire and David Air to the north and Tim Frost and Margaret Minichini to the south, say they’re taking their case to the Town Board because, while they were assured by the wharf company that wooden bulkheads on either side of the entrance would be maintained by the wharf company, there was no language in the permit for them to insure that work would be done.

“We supported the project provided that when they granted the permit it would include all the appropriate considerations,” Mr. Air said this week. “It’s the failure of maintenance that is the threat. The waterfront owners are very confident, once the Town Board reviews the documents, that this problem can be brought to an agreeable resolution once the laws around protecting the environment and compliance with wetlands regulations are met.”

Mr. Duell could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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