A Surf Mecca
August 25, 2014
The proposal by ED40 L.L.C., the new owner of the iconic East Deck Motel, to convert it from a modest 28-room motel into a 179-member private beach club with a proposed septic capacity for 537 persons is a “nonstarter,” according to a recent East Hampton Star editorial. However, to the surfing community and to many concerned community groups, the proposal is a lot worse than a mere nonstarter.
The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches for all people, through a powerful activist network that includes local chapters worldwide with over 250,000 members. This proposal is anathema to its mission and two of its most important mandates: clean water and beach access. It also fails under Surfrider’s advocated coastal policy, given the property is located in a FEMA flood zone. Surfrider is opposed to increasing development in identified FEMA coastal hazard zones, and advocates retreat for threatened coastal properties.
Our Eastern Long Island Chapter of Surfrider Foundation has partnered with Concerned Citizens of Montauk in initiating our Blue Water Task Force to test the water quality at the surf spot known as the Trailer Park, which others may recognize as “Dirt Lot” or “Third Lot,” or perhaps more generally as Ditch Plain. The area consists of several iconic surf spots. Together, they comprise Ditch Plain, the most renowned surf spot in New York State and among the most renowned on the East Coast. For any surfer in New York, surfing Ditch Plain is a pilgrimage. For decades, this pilgrimage has driven the exponentially increased surf-related portion of the economy of Montauk, and, to an extent, the rest of the South Fork.
Our water-quality monitoring has produced many readings that are cause for concern at Trailer Park and at Lake Montauk, which lies directly to the north of Ditch Plain. The Town of East Hampton has determined that a meaningful source of this contamination is caused by septic systems in Ditch Plain. All of our readings are available on our chapter website: surfrider.org/blue-water-task-force/chapter/37.
The intensification of use encompassed in the ED40 proposal will increase septic discharge. This is likely to produce an increase in contamination to the water in Lake Montauk and the ocean environment where we surf, fish, harvest shellfish, and bathe.
Additionally, the survey submitted by ED40 to the East Hampton Town Planning Board locates the oceanside property line to include much of the public beach as ED40 property. Though ED40 has been silent on its intentions with respect to the beach in front of its property, on its face, the ED40 beach membership club proposal will likely include a cabana service on a portion of beach that has, for decades, been used by the public for all sorts of traditional beach activities. This not only places commercial interests on our beach, but also stands to privatize this portion of our beach. This is a serious threat to the public’s access to the portion of beach that links the Dirt Lot to Otis Avenue and to the lifeguarded portion of Ditch Plain. Safety would also be compromised if Marine Patrol and lifeguards are impeded from ready access to all portions of Ditch Plain Beach.
Surfrider Foundation’s coastal policy discourages further development in hazardous coastal flood areas. The ED40 property is in an extremely hazardous flood zone that has already experienced tremendous erosion and significant flooding. The meaningful increased investment in this property inherent in the ED40 plan will almost certainly result in a call by ED40 to armor its coastal property boundary subsequent to a major storm as it attempts to preserve its eroding property and protect its substantial investment.
Our chapter opposes this proposal, as it conflicts with our commitment to protecting clean water and public beach access. This proposal is also inconsistent with sound coastal policy that should seek to reduce coastal hazards by restricting increased development in coastal flood areas and preventing the use of hard erosion control structures on the beach.
We ask all Surfrider members to oppose this project. We ask that the East Hampton Town Planning Board take note of our concerns regarding this project and reject the special permit application for a change of use from a modest 28-room motel to a membership club that would encompass greater intensification of use, meaningfully higher septic outflow, commercialization of a surf mecca, and the disregard of sound coastal policy. Clean water and a healthy coastal environment is dependent on smart planning to ensure that our entire community continues to enjoy this special place we call Ditch Plain.