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Sands Pt. Looks at Sweeping New Dock Law

By William Gravert

The Village of Sands Point is considering a comprehensive new docks law that, if passed, would affect not only new dock construction in the village, but existing docks as well. The new law sets strict length, width, height and other construction requirements for new docks and requires all docks to be inspected every five years.

The new law, which is currently being revised by the village, limits new docks to 200 feet or long enough "to reach navigable water depth," whichever is less. It also limits width to 6-feet, height to 8-feet above mean high water and, if there's a float, it can't exceed 300 square feet. A hearing will be held on the law Jan. 14th at 8 p.m. at village hall. Written public comment will be accepted until Dec. 29.

Unlike other new municipal laws that often include a "grandfather clause" exempting existing structures, the new law introduced at a Dec. 16th meeting of the board of trustees requires dock owners to apply to the village's Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) for a permit every five years. To get the permit they'll have to get the dock certified by a licensed engineer as structurally sound, submit photographs and, if required by the village building department, a survey. Two BZA members will visit the dock to ensure that it's being properly maintained before the full BZA will issue or renew the permit. Existing dock owners get a three-year grace period before they're required to have a permit.

The new law is a product of months of wrangling between waterfront property owners and residents who want to bridle the proliferation of new docks in a village located on the eastern, northern and western flanks on the Cow Neck Peninsula. It tries to "balance the rights of individuals against that of the public good," according to one village official. It also addresses derelict or poorly maintained docks, as well as general dock and waterfront safety.

At the meeting, several residents expressed concern that the new law would constitute a burden on existing dock owners.

"For existing docks," said one resident, "it's going to be very expensive to re-do the dock."

"The intent of the law," said Trustee and Building Commissioner Edward Adler, "is not to require changing an existing and properly maintained dock. There's no intent here for a dock owner to change a properly maintained dock. Of course it will cost a few dollars to get the engineer's report, the survey and the photos, but there's been an effort here to extend the permits of existing docks, regardless of their length."

Regarding placement of new docks, Adler said: "If someone has waterfront property and they want a dock, it's going to be where they see it. There is a minimum distance from neighboring property. Every five years the dock owner must have his dock inspected for a permit to prevent derelict docks. If they're not maintained, they'll lose (their permit).

After recessing for a brief executive session, Mayor Leonard Wurzel announced that the board would not vote on the new law immediately. "Another public hearing will be held on the dock law in consideration of the many comments made tonight," he said. "We would like to have your comment in writing before Dec. 29. A copy of the revised law will be available Jan. 5.

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