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Penny Charges Over Clearing Damaged Dune System; Lobbies For Reconstruction And Fines

Originally Posted: November 11, 2008

Aaron Boyd

  |   11 Comments · Print Article

Natural Resources Director Larry Penny has asserted that a protected dune was illegally removed during construction work on the former de Menil property off of Further Lane in East Hampton. Photos by Aaron Boyd

East Hampton - Clearing on the former de Menil property at 260 Further Lane in East Hampton, purchased in what has been widely reported as the largest residential real estate deal in U.S. history at $103 million for 40 acres, has reportedly led to the destruction of an integral section of dune-front alarming the town's environmentalists.

The 3,000-year-old Atlantic Double Dune, identified as one of Long Island's most expansive dune systems, stretches three miles from Old Beach Lane to Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett. The longest dune system on Long Island, if not the entire East Coast, according to East Hampton's Director of Natural Resources Larry Penny, is of particular environmental import. The section of the dune that traverses the former de Menil property, now owned by Ron Baron, included a tertiary dune on the northern side, which has been allegedly destroyed in the clearing process. The over-clearing came to the resources director's attention through before-and-after photos of the construction site revealing that the northern-most dune had been completely dismantled.

The Town of East Hampton has protected its dune habitats by law since 1984, according to Penny, which requires a natural resources special permit be issued by the town's Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) prior to any work disturbing dune areas. Property owner Baron has failed to apply for the proper permits to conduct clearing and Penny is seeking a stop-work order on the property as a result. Since the town does not have any injunctive powers, it can only levy a fine when the permit process is circumvented. As it now stands, the town would have to bring a case to the County Supreme Court in Riverhead to get an injunction against further construction.

Penny would like to see Baron replace the dune in the hopes of restoring the ecosystem.

The 200-acre stretch of double-dune is an important coastal habitat, creating a self-contained ecosystem for a wide variety of birds, mammals, reptiles and rare species of plants, according to the Nature Conservancy. The area is so environmentally sensitive that Penny wrote a letter to Baron shortly after he purchased the land from the de Menils last year describing the importance of the property and explicitly informing the new owner that he would need a special permit before beginning any construction work near the dunes.

The 40 acres of farmland and ocean bluffs under scrutiny previously housed the wooden buildings that now sit in front of East Hampton Town Hall. The buildings, donated to the town by Adelaide de Menil, are currently in the process of being renovated into a new Historic Town Hall complex, a $6.4 million project that has come under intense fire recently as the cost of repairs escalates while the town battles a $15 million deficit.

Penny would like to see the town force Baron to reconstruct the tertiary dune that has been disturbed by replacing all the sand that was removed. The habitat will not be immediately restored, Penny explained, however with time the ecosystem will be able to rebuild itself.

Baron was not available to comment, however attorneys representing his interests have asserted their client has committed no wrong-doing and fully understands the environmental importance and sensitivity of the parcel.

The unique Atlantic Double Dune stretches across 200 acres along East Hampton's southern coast.

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Guest (Penny Supported) from East Hampton says::
Baron should be buried to his neck and allowed to be pecked to death by the piping plovers.
Apr 23, 2009 10:20 pm

Guest (Ocean Lover) from East Hampton says::
I guess this issue is off the front page. It will die and Mr. Baron will get away with the destruction of a beautiful beach area. Money talks. This is just another example of the ineptness of this board and the favoritism towards the wealthy. The policy of letting the rich do what they want in both the Village and the Town, in this instance both are guilty, reinforces the hostile feelings of the law abiding citizens of East Hampton. I think Mr Baron's legal counsel is using the the troubles of the town to sneak this thing past officials and take away from us something very special. It stinks. We need to stand up this activity or risk having others steal from us too.
Dec 1, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (Baron Supporter) from East Hampton says::
Looks like Mr. Baron owns all of you as well as that stupid dune. So long dune...you're in my way.
Nov 19, 2008 3:37 pm

Guest (Ocean Lover) from East Hampton says::
Mr. Baron and his attorney seem to think we are all idiots. Not only have they blatantly destroyed the primary dune, but there were wetlands there also. Is the legal advice he recieves "just go ahead and do what you want, we'll pay the fine later". He needs to rectify the entire situation, restoring everything and pay a fine (here's a way to solve our financial problem), and some jail time wouldn't be out of the question either. Anyone else filling in wetlands, and destroying ocean front dunes would be severely punished. Why not him?
Nov 19, 2008 8:46 am

Guest (Penny Supporter) from Westchester/Suffolk counties says::
I agree with Penny, there's something to be said for the purpose of dunes/ecosystems. The property owner shoud not only restore the dune, but add an additional penalty for not going to ZBA- fully pay to restore the buildings donated for historic town hall.
Nov 15, 2008 8:39 pm

Guest (Neighbor) from East Hampton says::
NOTHING CRIMINAL AT ALL! ---I think it's funny. Baron can do whatever he wants. It's his land/property. He bought it, he owns it! Plain and simple. All you 'cry babies' need to GET A LIFE and mind your own business and keep your nose out of Baron's.
Nov 15, 2008 9:02 am

Guest (Concerned neighbor) from Southampton says::
It's criminal what he is getting away with! Maybe he should pay the 6.4 mil to renovate the de Menil buildings!
Nov 12, 2008 11:32 am

Guest (Saddened) from East Hampton says::
Will the wetlands be restored too?
Nov 12, 2008 5:45 am

Guest (Jeannette Matz) from Southampton, NY says::
It is a question as to why the attorneys for the owner can say, there was no wrong doing. The owner having been warned is, I feel, in double trouble as no one owning the dunes since it is natural habitat.
Nov 12, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (WHB Rez) from WHb says::
That's a pretty cruddy looking Dune. Does anyone else feel manipulated? I mean let's just look at the numbers presented. 1. he has a 40 acre property 2. The Dune is 200 square acres 3. It is 3,000 years old (how one measures THAT I remain perplexed). So my basic question is The Dunes are 5x larger than his property? How much did he remove that was on his property? Where was the rest, town? state? federal land? While not condoning the arrogant removal, I think the real story is not well presented. PS I do believe the fine is a lofty 3K...probably two drainings in the loo of champagne
Nov 12, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (North Fork ) from Riverhead, NY says::
Doesn't the company who performed the work demolishing the dunes bear any responsibility for performing the work without a permit? The property owner and the businesses who perform these services without a valid permit in place should both face legal and financial repercussions.
Nov 11, 2008 9:41 pm


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