Homeowner could face stiff fines for cleared bluff

A Roanoke Avenue man has been charged with removing part of a bluff on his Soundfront property in Riverhead, and now his neighbors fear the surrounding vegetation is vulnerable and could possibly be wiped out by the next major storm.

Bill Osborne, whose home at 2705 Roanoke Ave. is one of two located on the beach at the end of Roanoke Avenue, has been charged with two town code violations for excavating without a permit and for taking material off the property.

The town attorney’s office said the couple could face fines of up to $7,000 a day for the damage.

Mr. Osborne did not return repeated calls for comment. He is scheduled to appear in Riverhead Town Justice Court on July 13.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation had been investigating, but declined to pursue the matter because the bluff was out of their jurisdiction, DEC spokesperson Bill Fonda said. The bluff was located behind a bulkhead and so was not part of the shoreline overseen by his agency, he explained.

Those living near the property were less than pleased with Mr. Osborne’s alleged actions.

Steve Garland, whose weekend house is next door, said that by removing a portion of the bluff, Mr. Osborne jeopardized the surrounding properties, including Mr. Garland’s land. The neighbor is now worried that his back steps might be washed into the ocean.

“Right now my stairs are roughly 20 feet away,” Mr. Garland said. “If nothing is done and we get a good rain,” meaning a serious storm with coastal erosion, “then my stairs could go.”

Bruce Davis, who lives in the Rolling Woods community, which has a deeded beach just west of the Osborne property, was outraged.

“This is very serious,” he said. “It’s just beyond belief that someone would remove the bluff.”

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