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Observation deck at Town Park could cost Hamburg up to $1,000 per day

An observation deck built on the bluff overlooking Lake Erie last summer at Hamburg Town Park violates state law and the town could be fined up to $1,000 a day, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC told the town earlier this month it was in violation because the deck was built in a regulated area without the necessary state permit. It requested a meeting by the end of the year, and one is scheduled for Thursday, according to Highway Superintendent Tom Best Sr.

"Evidently, somebody made a big mistake and put that deck in the coastal erosion area. They might have to move that thing," Best said.

He said he had the deck built in late summer, after the boat launch was closed because a pylon and a deck floated away in a storm. Because of that, the town did not have to spend money to dredge the boat launch area.

"If it's wrong, it's wrong," he said. "If they tell us, 'Tear it down,' we'll tear it down."

The DEC contends state law prohibits development on the bluffs.

"Land use, development and other activities are regulated in these coastal areas subject to flooding and erosion to help minimize or prevent damage to natural protective features, man-made property, natural resources and human life," a DEC letter to the town states.

The DEC asked the town to bring a copy of the town building permit and detailed plans for the structure. Best said the deck was built by a private contractor, and the department did not obtain a town building permit because it was built on town property.

The state is "reviewing its options" regarding the deck, including fines, but it has not finalized any penalties. Anyone who violates conservation law could be liable for a penalty up to $1,000 and an additional penalty of up to $1,000 for each day the violation continues.

Best said he will tell incoming Highway Superintendent Ted Casey about the meeting, since Best's term expires Dec. 31.

Best believes someone complained about the deck.

"I just don’t believe that the DEC was driving down Route 5 and said, 'Uh-oh, I think that is in the coastal erosion area,'" Best said.

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