Z.B.A. Members Debate Fine Points

    The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals debated two controversial applications Tuesday night, making a decision on one and tabling the other for a week.
    The first involved three and a third acres on Napeague, between Montauk Highway and the beach, where the owners, Mindy Nam and Mark Dehnert, have asked for a natural resources permit for a 2,000-square-foot lawn, a 6,050-square-foot tennis court, a 640-square-foot pavilion, a 100-square-foot shed, along with 831 square feet of deck and parking. The sticking point was the lawn.
    A hearing had been held on the proposal on April 17, during which a neighbor, George Stankevich, and a member of the Planning Department staff, objected to a lawn on duneland and the owners offered to restrict themselves to approved fertilizers.
    Don Cirillo, a member of the panel, spoke first. Noting that lawn was “the largest stumbling block,” he said, “I don’t like to micro-manage. I’d hate to turn down the entire application.”
    Each of the members who spoke expressed reservations about the lawn but support for the plan otherwise. One Z.B.A. member, Sharon McCobb, agreed that the ecology was sensitive, but nevertheless approved the plan, reminding the others that the applicants planned to merge two lots, which meant one less septic system.
    As the members appeared prepared to vote for approval, the chairman, Alex Walter argued that the covenant the applicant was willing to put in place regarding fertilizer would be unenforceable. “I just don’t think the lawn is something I’d want to trade off here,” Mr. Walter said.
    After consulting with Robert Connelly, a town attorney, the board agreed unanimously to approve the plan, provided the lawn was deleted from it.
    The second application under discussion Tuesday came from the owners of the Surf Lodge, a popular Montauk night spot. They seek to overturn a ruling by the town’s chief building inspector, Tom Preiato, that a portable dry bar or waiters station on the club’s deck was an expansion of the club’s pre-existing, nonconforming use of residential property. A hearing had been held on April 24, and one member of the board, Brian Gosman, had recused himself, meaning that it would take at least three of the four remaining members of the board to overturn the ruling.
    The board decided to put off a decision until next week after one member, Lee White, said, “I think Tom acted appropriately,” while Mr. Walter said the use of the bar on the deck actually reduced the square footage and, therefore, that Mr. Preiato had made an error.
    The board also held public hearings on Tuesday on two applications from oceanfront property owners. An application from a property owner identified only by a corporate name, Marine Boulevard L.L.C., was for a natural resources permit and a variance to allow construction within 35 feet of the dune crest where 100 feet is required. The application involves replacing a 3,129-square-foot deck with one of 2,994 square feet, slightly enlarging a driveway, and replacing a stone walkway with a wooden one at 98 Marine Boulevard in Beach Hampton.
     William J. Fleming, representing the applicant, said, “They want to pull the deck back and away from the dune.” He noted that a hot tub was to be removed. Joel Halsey, who reviewed the proposal for the Planning Department, said a trade-off was involved and that the plan was  environmentally positive.
    The second hearing was about a house at 33 Whalers Lane. Whose owner is seeking a second-floor deck of 87 square feet as well as a variance for three walkways.
    David Kirst, an attorney with McLaughlin and Eagan, told the panel that the walkways had existed when the owner bought the property and that a certificate of occupancy was in place at the time despite the fact that they did not have a variance. “It’s amazing that a C of O is issued with these walkways where a variance is required. Amazing,” Mr. Walter said.
    No one spoke in opposition to either proposal. The board has 62 days to make decisions.