Lion Head, Take Two


   Neighbors of a proposed three-lot development in Springs continued to rail against improvement of the properties at an East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on March 22, even though the board had already approved a house on each lot three years ago. 

The owner of the three lots, Joslin Lions Head, which received variances for each of the three houses in 2008, had to return to the zoning board with reworked applications after the Suffolk County Department of Health denied variance requests for septic systems on the properties. 

In the revised applications to the zoning board, the houses, which would be between 1,911 square feet and 3,149 square feet, no longer require variances, according to Kelly Risotto, who represented the landowner. However, some of the septic systems require greater variances than those originally needed and are closer to the the wetlands surrounding a small pond known as Lion Head Pond East — 148 feet, 125 feet, and 115 feet from the wetlands where 150 feet is required. And, despite the zoning board having denied variance requests for pools and decks on the properties in 2008, the owner is again asking for pools on each lot. 

This time, the pools are proposed more than 100 feet from wetlands, and while natural resources permits are still required for their construction, variances are not.

Most neighbors who appeared at the meeting to speak against the application asked that the three parcels be acquired with money from the town’s community preservation fund. The 2005 Comprehensive Plan recommended that the lots be purchased, characterizing them as land with “Hog Creek frontage, and wetlands.” Brian Frank, the town’s chief environmental analyst, said that the ponds in the area may have at some point in time been connected to Hog Creek, but they are not now. A swath of land northwest of the pond is preserved open space. 

But, as Mr. Frank pointed out, purchase through the community preservation fund requires a willing seller and the property owner has yet to indicate such willingness.

Henry Schwatzman, who lives next door to two of the lots on Pond Lane, took neighbors’ requests to the town board on March 24, asking it to consider public purchase of the properties. 

Mr. Schwatzman, who hired his own engineer to review the application, said on March 22 that in addition to attending the zoning board meeting, he and William Graner, his engineer, also attended the County Health Department’s Board of Review meeting to oppose variances for the septic systems. Still, the county approved the systems 75 feet from his well. (Final county approval is subject to the town zoning board’s approval.)

Mr. Graner pointed out what he perceived to be a number of inaccuracies in the plans Ms. Risotto presented to the board, saying they were “a little deceptive in what they’re showing.” 

Philip Gamble, the zoning board’s chairman, seemed surprised that the county did not take Mr. Schwatzman’s protests into account. Ms. Risotto told him that engineers from the county found that the natural grade slopes toward the pond and away from Mr. Schwatzman’s well.

Mr. Schwatzman said Theresa Joslin, a principal of the what he called the Joslin Lions Head “development corporation,” is “trying to force through variances” to increase the value of the properties. “They want to get the maximum dollar bang out of the property they have,” he said.

“The impact is going to be tremendous,” said Howard Persky, who has lived at his Isle of Wight house for 30 years. He called the neighborhood a “small, sensitive area.” Lion Head Pond East is the “only pond that’s healthy in that community,” said his wife, Willa Persky, echoing his comments.

Mr. Schwatzman told the board that Ms. Risotto offered some neighbors of the project a connection to public water in order to mitigate the fact that their drinking water wells are within 150 feet of the proposed septic systems. Mr. Schwatzman, along with another neighbor, Dorothy Rossi, have not accepted the offer. 

“I have a right to maintain my well,” said Mr. Schwatzman. Ms. Rossi pointed out that she would have to pay the Suffolk County Water Authority to have water extended to her house from the public main. Ms. Risotto said the developers would reimburse her for those costs.

The board continued to listen to neighbor’s concerns long into the night and chose to leave the record open until April 19 to give the East Hampton Town Trustees time to weigh in on the proposal. The trustees own the bottomland of Lion Head Pond East and were not properly notified of the zoning board hearing.­