Town supervisor backs off removing signs from beach in Wading River

07/08/2010 12:00 AM |

The “no trespassing” signs on some Long Island Sound beaches in Wading River did not come down over the weekend, as Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter had said they would.

A lawyer representing some of the homeowners who put up the signs, meanwhile, has suggested that the town could face legal action if it took them down.

Mr. Walter said last week that the signs posted along the Sound east of the town’s Wading River beach infringed on the public’s right to use the beach. He said then he would order the town police to remove them before July 4th.

“We’re going to enforce the rights of the public to use that beach,” he said in an interview last week.

Since then, Mr. Walter has spoken with Jim and Amy Csorny, who are among the homeowners who posted the signs, and attorney Jonathan Sinnreich, who is representing the Csornys and other homeowners.

“I believe there is some sort of resolution here,” Mr. Walter said yesterday. “We’re going to coordinate some sort of meeting so that we can create a lane on the beach for vehicles to pass through without trespassing and maybe put up signs telling people to be respectful of neighbors. Life is too short to be fighting over this sort of thing. If we can work it out, let’s do so.”

Mr. Sinnreich sent a letter to the town last Tuesday saying that any attempt by the town to enter his clients’ property and remove the signs would constitute an “unlawful trespass” and would violate their Constitutional rights,

“We believe the supervisor is completely without any legal basis in claiming the public has any rights to land above the mean high water mark,” Mr. Sinnreich said.

The homeowners say that people driving beach vehicles frequently trespass on their private property. They say that everything landward of the mean high water mark is private, and that everything seaward of that mark is public.

Mr. Walter said last week that there were several legal theories that supported the public’s right of accessto beachfront land, and he questioned the correct location of the mean high water mark.

Mr. Sinnreich said in an interview that “the town’s refusal to recognize beachfront property rights goes a long way back. I got involved about a year ago when the town’s excuse was that, even if we own the land, no one knows where the mean high water mark is, so the cops can’t enforce” trespass laws.

Last year, several of the homeowners commissioned a survey to find the actual mean high water mark, which is an average of where the mark is over an 18.5-year period, he said.

At the time, the town was under the administration of former supervisor Phil Cardinale.

“The indication we got was that the town now understood our position and would be more vigorous in enforcing our rights,” Mr. Sinnreich said.

But the new administration under Mr. Walter, who took office in January, didn’t see it that way, he said.

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