Town May Allow Basement Bedrooms

    A provision in the East Hampton Town code barring bedrooms in basements of single-family residences may be dropped, as it is more restrictive than the New York State building code.
    East Hampton’s town attorney, John Jilnicki, told the town board on Tuesday that the town may not, without specific state approval, enforce laws more restrictive than those in the state building code. Though the town could seek the state’s okay, he said it is unlikely a variance would be granted.
    The state code requires certain types of exits from basement bedrooms, directly to the outdoors, for safety. However, Dave Browne, the town fire marshal, said that he is concerned that, should homeowners begin to install bedrooms in basements, they are done safely and according to the code.
    Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said that allowing bedrooms in basements “is a zoning issue” that could raise questions about the adequacy of septic systems, and about houses with too many occupants. He noted that residents of Springs have been coming to the board continually with their concerns about overcrowding of houses in that hamlet. “Without dealing with the zoning impacts, and the density impacts in a neighborhood,” he said, “then you could possibly double the legal density of an area.”
    “There are a number of areas where our code differs from the state’s,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, “and it has to do with density, it has to do with the particulars of what we want in this town.”
    But Councilwoman Theresa Quigley insisted that the question has only to do with safety. “I think that we have focused only on density, to the detriment of the safety of our citizens. So I think it’s high time we focused on the other aspects of zoning, and not just density.”
    Mr. Van Scoyoc suggested the board seek information from the Planning Department about the possible effects of legalizing basement bedrooms.
    Other provisions in the town zoning code are more restrictive than those of the state building code, Tom Preiato, the town’s chief building inspector, told the board. In that case, Ms. Quigley said, a full review of the town code might be in order.