Guest Column: A tale of frustration, apprehension and red tape

Although Mother Nature doesn’t want to let go of winter, we are busy, like other boaters, prepping our vessel for the upcoming season. We were very lucky to have found our home on the beautiful Peconic River. It’s the perfect spot for us. We can fi sh the river and head out to the bays and beyond, enjoying Long Island’s waterways.

However, what used to be a time for anticipation is now clouded with apprehension.

The story begins in 1998, when we had our cabin cruiser dry docked at the Moose Lodge marina, and we had just finished spring-commissioning the vessel. Later in the day, during dinner at a local restaurant, we were contacted by our neighbor, who told us that our boat was on fi re. Luckily, no one was hurt due to the quick actions of fellow boaters and River-head fi refighters. Detectives apprehended the pyromaniac within 30 days.

After this incident, we decided to keep our new boat on our property. We already had a pier, ramp and two fl oating docks in place with approved permits. We wanted to build a ramp to launch the boat. But our dock builder had said not to apply for permits because we would never get approval, even though there was a preexisting concrete ramp in place dating back eons. He said we’d be better off putting in a nonpermanent wooden ramp over the partially broken existing concrete ramp. We took photographs of the one-foot thick concrete slabs so as to verify the existence of the ramp should push ever come to shove.

The new wooden ramp served its purpose from 2003 until Superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012. As the river rose to approximately 70 feet near our home, there was extensive damage to the wooden ramp, and it proved to be a precarious achievement to haul and launch our boat each year. Boards were splitting and disconnecting. We realized our launch ramp needed to be replaced or repaired, or one of us would get hurt. When you live on the water, you not only have to apply for town permits, you need to go through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, an agency most strict about preserving the environment. We were fi ned, of course, but given the go-ahead for the project.

Riverhead Town, however, saw things differently. The town saw green. As an outdoors writer, my partner, Bob Banfelder, depends on being able to fi sh the Peconic River and its outlying bays. He maintains a monthly report on Nor’east Saltwater, writing articles on fishing and boating. Meetings with the Conservation Advisory Committee referencing the building department application, the zoning board variance application — not to mention the ancillary paperwork involved — all followed. These were handled by our expediter, Agena Rigdon of DKR Shores. The glitch was the requirement for a new survey ($500+) because the town would not accept the DEC’s updated survey/site plan. There would be no guarantee we would receive approval to keep the ramp where it is presently located because town code stipulates a distance of 10 feet off the property line. Adjacent neighbors wrote letters supporting our endeavor. Frustrations and dollars kept mounting.

We met with Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who believed it would not be an issue to have the zoning board use the DEC’s site plan, but deputy supervisor Jill Lewis and town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz saw things differently. Mr. Kozakiewicz stated in writing that if the NYSDEC site plan was accepted by the zoning board to make a determination, “being a policy decision, the outcome could form a precedent for others similarly situated.” Supervisor Sean Walter sided with the town attorney. To the extent concerning precedents being set in the Town of Riverhead, we say to Ms. Lewis, Mr. Kozakiewicz and Mr. Walter that precedents have been sidestepped regarding properties that do not follow town code. As residents living here for 24 years, we know where all the bodies are buried.

Both Ms. Rigdon and Ms. Giglio saw the fiasco for what it was and fought indefatigably on our behalf
— all to no avail. At this point, Bob and I cut our losses ($1,700+) and decided that with no guarantee of the outcome, we would not pursue the matter further. So here we are, at a time that we would normally be boating.

We tried to do the right thing; however, when it comes to dealing with Riverhead Town, you are far better off keeping your mouth shut from the onset.

R_Derasmo_CMs. Derasmo is a Riverhead resident and is a retired mathematics staff developer with the New York City Department of Education.