Okay for Houses at the Downs

    After holding scheduled public hearings on June 12, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals went into a work session and debated the proposed development of three contiguous lots located on the border of the Montauk Downs golf course on South Fairview Avenue, Montauk.
    Thomas Milne, who owns the three properties, had received approval from the town planning board to fold two of the parcels into one larger lot, and was now seeking variances to allow him to build two two-story houses, each about 1,700 square feet, with modest footprints of 950 and 917 square feet.
    On June 5, Mr. Milne spoke on the matter after the board’s public hearing. Billy Hajek of LandMarks planning had spoken for him at the hearing.
    “My grandmother bought a home in Montauk in about 1932,” Mr. Milne said. He grew up there before moving to Queens to raise his own family, he continued, returning to Montauk to buy a house in 1974 and becoming a resident. He eventually sold that house with the goal of building a new one on the golf course.
    “I became entwined with the planning board and the zoning board with wetlands,” he said. “I own the Surfside Inn. Presently, I live over the candy store.”
    The surrounding area is ribboned with wetlands, long stretches of very narrow wild growth. The variances requested may seem extreme at first glance, several being over 50 percent closer to the wetlands than town code dictates, but there can be strong mitigating circumstances in such requests.
    “I don’t need a large house,” Mr. Milne said. “I’ve been an environmentalist my whole life.”
    Brian Frank, chief environmental analyst for the town’s Planning Department, explained that requests for variances along the lines of Mr. Milne’s were, in fact, in keeping with good stewardship of the land. Decreasing the usage from the three houses to which he was actually entitled, to two, would alleviate septic system effects, Mr. Frank said, adding that the planned location of the two houses had been optimized to have a minimal impact on the environment.
    On June 12, the zoning board green-lighted Mr. Milne’s plans, voting 5 to 0 to grant the variances requested.
    The board also considered that night a request to allow the building of a 648-square-foot pool at 79 Wyandanch Lane in Amagansett, with a 148-square-foot poolhouse, on a 6,000-square-foot vacant lot owned by Lewis Meyers, adjacent to a house he also owns. To build the pool and poolhouse, Mr. Meyers needed setback variances from adjacent wetlands and neighboring properties.
    “There was some opposition from neighbors against putting the structure in,” the Z.B.A. chairman, Alex Walter, said as deliberations began.
    “It becomes a question of whether somebody can build an accessory structure on such a piece of land,” said Don Cirillo, a board member, noting that the two neighbors opposed to the variances would have preferred another house on the site, rather than a pool, which they felt was not in keeping with the neighborhood.
    After consulting with the board’s attorney, Robert Connelly, it was determined that, under a local law enacted in 2005, Mr. Meyers was within his rights to build an accessory structure on the property. The board added a caveat that if the property was ever sold as a single parcel, the pool would have to be removed.
    The board voted 5 to 0 to grant the requested variances and a needed natural resources special permit, with that stipulation.