- 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.