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Hashamomuck Cove property owners study feasibility of a special taxing district

Hashamomuck Cove property owners are moving forward with exploring the creation of a special taxing district to fund a project to bolster their shoreline, which has been battered by years of erosion and increasingly frequent and powerful storms. 

There’s no definite plan yet, as critical questions must still be answered and property owners need to organize. In addition, state approvals would have to be secured to create such a taxing district. 

Southold Town held a meeting for affected property owners April 12 to outline how a taxing district would form and review cost projections for an Army Corps of Engineers restoration project, which most recently included constructing a 25-foot berm along Long Island Sound. The idea of a taxing district emerged as an alternative after a February meeting of the Army Corps, state and local officials and property owners, because the town, county and state would not commit as funding sources for the project. 

“If there’s going to be hope of a long-term solution there and if there’s going to be any prospect of that local share being absorbed, it would have to probably be through a special district,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said in the week after the April meeting. “I see no will on the part of New York State, Suffolk County or Southold Town to cover those costs.”

The taxing district would be independent, meaning it would have its own board of commissioners and budget authority that is not absorbed by the town, Mr. Russell said. He also said the state had passed legislation that made it more difficult to create that type of district. Taxes in the district would be determined assessed by property values. 

“A simple act of the Legislature and the governor could approve this one, and we would hope at the time the intent was to maybe make it harder to create them, but maybe on a case-by-case basis,” Mr. Russell said. “There are some circumstances where that is absolutely the best way to go and I think this is one of them.”

Among the questions that remain, the supervisor noted, are exactly which properties would be included in the taxing district and what sort of a pay structure it would follow. To pursue answers, he said, discussions would be held with state representatives and the Army Corps. 

There are close to 80 home and property owners on the cove, including individual condominium unit owners. It’s unclear if a taxing district would include those units. 

Southold’s Town Beach was included as part of the Corps’ original beachfront restoration plan, but the supervisor said that raises an issue with regard to a taxing district, as municipalities do not pay property taxes.

“We’re not going to object to a district if it says Southold has to pay based on its assessed value like everyone else,” Mr. Russell said. “We’re not going to object to the district or stand in the way of the district at all, but generally speaking, towns don’t pay property taxes and my position would be is we’re not going to start unless we’re told as part of the district we have to.”

In the meantime, other plans are in the works to build up Town Beach, which was severely damaged over the winter, at least for the upcoming season. 

The lengthy process to approve a special taxing district is new for the homeowners.  

“The only definite thing I can really say is, we heard, we have a direction, we have a next step, and we’re following up on our next step so we can keep stepping up the ladder,” said Lynn Laskos, a Hashamomuck Cove resident and spokeswoman for other residents.

That next step is connecting with state representatives, Ms. Laskos and Mr. Russell said.

“It’s just our next chapter in our book,” Ms. Laskos said. “We’re going to follow through and hopefully the homeowners can have this solidified before Mother Nature does.”

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