Hashamomuck Cove taxing district to be discussed

With no local government interested in being a project sponsor at this time, the creation of a Hashamomuck Cove taxing district to pay for work along a 1.6 mile stretch of Long Island Sound will be explored, officials said.

The idea of a taxing district came up after a Wednesday morning roundtable with local officials on the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed $14.5 million plan to bolster the waterfront at the cove.

For an Army Corps project such as this one, a local sponsor that is a taxing authority, or combination of local sponsors, is required in addition to the state. With that,  the federal government would cover 65 percent of the estimated $14.5 million costs, while the state would provide 24.5 percent and local sponsor provide 10.5 percent.

The Corps plan being recommended calls for a 25-foot-wide beach along the Sound at Hashamomuck Cove that would be constructed with 216,000 cubic yards of sand over the period of a year.  Under the plan, sand re-nourishment would occur every 5 years, depending on annual erosion, according to the plan.

The roundtable on Wednesday included Southold Town, Suffolk County and state officials, as well as residents.

The $14.5 million projection does not include re-nourishment or year-to-year maintenance costs. Local sponsor re-nourishment costs under the plan are estimated at $546,000 if done every five years.

The Army Corps’ Chief Deputy of Planning, Steve Couch, acknowledged the damage Hashamomuck Cove experienced after a harsh winter storm in early January. Private property received 60 percent of the storm damage, he said.

Town Board members, at their work session on Tuesday, expressed reservations about the cost of the project and whether the town would be the sole local sponsor. Additionally, the idea of spending taxpayer dollars restoring the shoreline to protect private property, while other parts of town are experiencing erosion, would be tough to justify, Supervisor Scott Russell said.

The local share is “certainly out of reach for us to pay for,” Councilman Bob Ghosio said. He asked, if the county would not be a local sponsor, would a taxing district for that area be feasible?

An alternative could be to table the plan until government budgets are healthier, DEC Coastal Management Section Chief Sue McCormick said. Some communities, such as Sagaponack and North Sea on the South Fork, have created special taxing districts to finance projects for erosion control.

Mr. Russell said the town will go over with residents what an autonomous taxing district entails. Creation of such a district – in which the residents essentially pay for the costs – requires approval from the state legislature, he said.

“It’s better than no sponsor at all, is all I can say,” Mr. Russell said.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty said the town offered moral support to Hashamomuck Cove residents.

Bill Hillman, chief engineer at Suffolk County Department of Public Works, said that getting 216,000 cubic yards of sand to the cove would require about 7,900 heavy truckloads.

“That’s a lot of trucks” that could damage local roads, he said.

While not committed to the Army Corps project at this time, county officials said they will do what it takes to maintain and protect County Road 48, part which was breached and temporarily closed during the January storm.

“As far as the road goes…it’s more than just Southold’s access to Peconic and Greenport, it’s a county road and it’s used by every resident in the county,” Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski said. “It’s an important artery that wouldn’t be forsaken easily.”

He referenced a letter from the Southold Town Board of Trustees that suggests alternatives such as an extensive rock revetment as a means to protect the road and allow for a modest-sized beach. Mr. Krupski met with Trustees at Town Beach that morning.

Hashamomuck Cove resident Mike Candan asked if the town considered what it would lose in property tax income if homes along the cove were lost and not rebuilt. Resident Kate Phelan said that $1 million is collected from 76 cove property owners. The supervisor noted, those taxes also go to school and fire districts, so the town takes in a fraction of that, about $230,000 or $240,000.  

“That’s where the discussion about a taxing district comes in,” Mr. Russell said.

Photo caption: Army Corps’ Chief Deputy of Planning, Steve Couch at the roundable Wednesday morning at the Peconic Lane Community Center. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

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