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WMAC: Town could aid Merkel Creek project

JULIE LANE PHOTO Who owns the bottom of the canal leading to Merkel Creek? That answer could decide the town’s role in future dredging.
Who owns the bottom of the canal leading to Merkel Creek? That answer could decide the town’s role in future dredging.

South Ferry Hills residents who live around Merkel Creek are likely to get the town to kick in $5,000  for dredging incidental to bulkhead work the members of the South Ferry Hills Homeowners Association are tackling.

But whether they’ll get support for future maintenance dredging by the town remains uncertain.

It has been 50 years since new bulkheads were installed at the entrance to the creek. Homeowners have committed to each household paying $5,000 toward the approximate $200,000 cost of new bulkheads, according to association president David Lichtenstein. He asked the Waterways Management Advisory Council to support a request to the Town Board to pay $5,000 for dredging incidental to the bulkhead project and then to accept responsibility for future maintenance dredging of the canal leading to the basin.

Council members are concerned about a problem posed by ownership of the actual bottom of the canal, but still said they would back a $5,000 payment for the dredging incidental to the bulkhead project. They were inclined to recommend that the money come from the town’s general fund, not the council’s budget, but no firm decision was made Monday night.

As for future maintenance dredging, council members were more troubled, partially because of a question of who owns the actual bottom of the canal leading into the basin. To commit public money to such a project, the town would have to own the bottom, Councilman Peter Reich told Mr. Lichtenstein.

What’s clear is that the basin was deeded to the Homeowners Association several years ago and the town owns the water above the canal, but there’s no proof that it owns the actual bottom of the canal, he said.

Another concern council members had was whether a redesign of the bulkhead might be done to keep sand from quickly drifting back into the canal.

But Mr. Lichtenstein said he has been told by marine contractors that the Homeowners Association would have difficulty gaining permits to change the bulkhead, while replacing it in-kind would pass muster with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

That decision was left open.

The council agreed to postpone work on examining town landings where they could create grids to accommodate stake and pulley moorings.  Members expect to begin tackling the issue at the September 10 meeting to explore which town landings might accommodate such planned mooring fields.

In other business, the council took the actions on applications for docks and moorings:
• Told marine contractor Jack Costello of Costello Marine that an application for Jeffrey Lightcap at 21 Heights Road wouldn’t pass muster with them even though it did with both the DEC and Army Corps of Engineers. They endorsed an alternative plan to use cement floats, while expressing some doubt that even that might not solve the problem of wave action. Member Bill  Geraghty encouraged Mr. Costello to hire an engineer to examine the problem and make recommendation for a solution that would work.
• Informed Mr. Costello that an application on behalf of Condon Point LLC of 34 North Cartwright Road wouldn’t pass muster using a T-shaped dock configuration. Instead, members endorsed an L-shaped configuration that Mr. Costello said was a backup plan.

Among the council’s concerns was that allowing Mr. Costello to build the T-shaped dock could set a precedent that could affect docks that might be built at the St. Gabriel’s site recently acquired by Richard Hogan.

Mr. Hogan told the Planning Board last month he was proposing a single dock to serve owners of five properties but also would allow owners of two smaller lots to build their own docks should they choose to do so.

Four members voted for the L-shaped dock while member Marc Wein said that would be acceptable to him only if proposed splash boards were removed.

• Told marine contractors Tim and Sean Heaney of Heaney Marine that they weren’t convinced a plan for a dock for Hirsch & Co. LLC of 26 Hilo Drive represented a hardship. The contractors argued that their client wanted to be allowed a dock in water that would be at a 5-foot depth, concerned that at low tides, there could be damage to a boat. By code, the dock could be in water that’s 4-feet deep and not need any variances. A true hardship would have to relate to something geographical such as rocks that could hinder the dock location, Mr. Reich said.

“We don’t build the dock to fit the boat; we build the dock to fit the code,” council chairman John Needham said.
The contractors had previously met with the WMAC, but were told plans needed to be submitted that included precise measurements before it could be considered.

• Recommended approval of a dock application for Nancy Richardson of 7 Apple Orchard Lane.

• Recommended approval of a mooring for Derek Jacobson of 26 Tuthill Drive.