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Proposed Sunset Beach dock delayed

Just a couple of weeks ago, a brief mention of moving the site for a dock to serve the Sunset Beach Hotel seemed like a simple exchange of one area for another that was considered more safe.

It might have been a simple item on an agenda gaining unanimous approval with little or no discussion. But at Tuesday’s Town Board work session, issues arose that clearly will require investigation before any decision is reached. It’s not a question of whether the hotel will get a dock.

That was something decided by agreement back in the 1970s. But there’s no doubt now that the original site won’t be possible for safety reasons.

However, the alternate site that appeared to be a solution pleasing both the operators of Sunset Beach and Town officials has problems. One issue is an underwater cable, which requires a determination to find exactly where it lies so it won’t be affected by a dock.

Another question is whether the dock is meant to accommodate either 20 dinghies or whether one large boat could take it over. That’s something that would probably become a question for the Waterways Management Advisory Council (WMAC), once a plan is submitted for its consideration.

And yet another question is how the dock might be impacted by seaplanes flying into the area. That, too, needs to be determined, again, for safety reasons.

The new dock is to be strictly for private use by operators of the Sunset Beach Hotel.

Another hurdle could be the use of public land for a private dock. The original site was designated for the hotel’s dock when that area was sold to the town, but the new site near the bathroom and gazebo would be town-owned land.

There may be a need for the state Legislature to approve a deal to use the site, something Town Attorney Stephen Kiely said he’s discussing with Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor). Whether or not a state permit will be necessary, the operators of Sunset Beach are still going to need a dock permit, Mr. Kiely said.

But there was also discussion among Board members whether some benefit to the public might be negotiated.

Highway Supervisor and Public Works Commissioner Ken Lewis said whatever the issues are, it’s important for everyone to know what good partners the Sunset Beach management has been with the town. He noted from the time the new bathroom was installed at the beach, the owners said they would pay half the cost of servicing it but ended up paying the entire cost.

“They’re doing right by the community,” Mr. Lewis said.

There was a brief discussion of a three-month moratorium on new dock applications. It won’t affect property owners of new docks already in the process of consideration or construction, but new applications would not be accepted during the moratorium.

WMAC Chairman Bill Geraghty said he doesn’t want to stop replacements of docks in process, nor does he want to require that docks that were nonconforming and need to be replaced have “to lessen” the non-conformance.

What has concerned the WMAC is the number of applications coming to the committee requiring exceptions to the provisions for new docks. A moratorium is meant to give the WMAC and Town Board time to consider what is in the best interests of the town if the existing trend of exceptions to rules is allowed to continue.

The discussion led to an indication that the three-month moratorium that has the blessing of the Suffolk County Planning Commission is likely to need another three months for the town to complete its work. Mr. Geraghty noted that he and his members have been working diligently on suggested changes that will demonstrate to the county that they need the additional three months.

It would appear that the issues that must be examined with respect to the Sunset Beach Hotel dock would be unaffected, because by the time its operators could file a formal application for a dock, the moratorium, even if extended, would be over.