Riverhead residents have been paying more for beach parking and beach driving fees than the Town Code says they should be, but a Town Board attempt to formally codify the higher fees led to the discovery of more mistakes in the town’s beach fee regulations.
The town has been charging $45 for annual beach driving permits for several years, even though the Town Code says that fee is $35. Likewise, the town has been charging $15 for a seasonal resident beach parking permit for years, even though the Town Code says that fee is $10.
The Town Board on Tuesday held a public hearing on a proposal to formally approve the higher fees, and to allow the Town Board to set these fees by a resolution, rather than a Town Code amendment in the future.
But Eric Biegler of Reeves Park pointed out that the Town Code says the beach driving permit runs from January to Dec. 31 in one section of the Town Code on beaches, but says all beach permits expire on Labor Day in another section of the same code.
“This will need further hearing,” Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said. He acknowledged that “this was an effort to get it done quickly.”
Mr. Biegler also said the beach driving permit doesn’t exist anymore because the town now sells the beach parking and beach driving permits as a combo for $60.
In addition, he said the code has very limited requirements for obtaining beach driving permits, meaning a person would need to have a four-wheel drive vehicle, and have a jack or tire gauge or other safety equipment in the vehicle.
“You can buy a permit for a Volkswagen Beetle or a Corvette,” he said, suggesting the town simply adopt Suffolk County’s regulations, which have such requirements.
Mr. Biegler also suggested the town raise the parking fees for non-residents, and said, “this money needs to be applied to our beaches.”
The non-resident fee is being sold for $35, even though the Town Code says it’s $25. Officials say that section of the code must be changed, too.
Mr. Biegler suggested it be $50.
“All of our other codes have to be looked at, too,” Councilman John Dunleavy said.
Town Supervisor Sean Walter agreed that the code should require beach vehicles to have safety equipment on board. He said the town does set the fees by resolution at the start of each year, and he said he believes a prior Town Board did formally vote to codify the higher fees, but they were just never put in the code book.
Town Recreation Department superintendent Ray Coyne said people can buy just a beach driving permit or beach parking permit without having to buy them both together if they come down to the recreation department office. But he said 90 percent of the people buy both, which is why the department combined them.
Ken Densieski, president of the East End Fishing Club, echoed Mr. Biegler’s comments. His organization recently helped clean up trash on the town beaches and filled a 40-yard dumpster with litter.
Mr. Walter said the town plans to have two police officers patrolling the beaches this summer, which he hopes will cut down on littering.
The board held the public hearing open for written comments until June 10.