For the second time this year, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals wrestled with a request for a variance that would allow the owners of a bayfront house on Lazy Point in Amagansett to construct a 147-foot stone revetment to protect the property from the receding shoreline.
This time, the tide turned in favor of the Mulford Lane homeowners, with the board voting 3-2 to grant the potentially precedent-setting variance. The chairman, Alex Walter, cast the deciding vote, joining Don Cirillo and Bryan Gosman. Sharon McCobb and Lee White voted against it.
Town code prohibits solid revetments in the Lazy Point area along Gardiner’s Bay.
Purchased by Christine Lemieux and Joshua Young in 2010, the house now on the property sits on its northern edge, with water from the bay lapping under its deck. In February, the board granted the couple the right to tear down and rebuild the house on the other side of the property, away from the water, but turned down a similar revetment plan, 4-1. Only Mr. Cirillo voted to approve what he called “a retaining wall,” arguing, as he did again on Tuesday, that an owner should be allowed to protect their property from a deteriorating shoreline.
“When water comes onto somebody’s land, I don’t think that town code restrictions are applicable,” Mr. Cirillo said Tuesday.
Both Mr. Gosman and Mr. Walter were swayed by what they said was an improved plan — a U shape with the revetment now following the contour of the property on the west and having a vinyl “return” on the east side — as well as by the fact that, unlike in February, the State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an approval for the project.
Brian Frank, the town’s chief environmental analyst, cautioned the board in a report written in September, writing, “Bulkheads and revetments frequently have unanticipated environmental impacts. These impacts extend beyond the footprint of the structure, causing erosion and diminishing the quality of the natural resources on adjacent properties, as well.”
Ms. McCobb, while voting against the variance, pointed out the lack of opposition from neighbors throughout the process. The only neighbors to speak out at either public hearing were in support of the plan.
However, she also said the planned wall “is going to be in the water. This is going to be immediately affected by wave action.” The change in tidal drift, which Mr. Frank had cautioned about, may be apparent from the outset.
“The house has to be in imminent peril” for such a shore-hardening structure to be approved, Mr. White said, arguing against the proposal. Because the board had already granted the couple the right to tear down and rebuild away from the water, Mr. White argued that it would not be appropriate at this time to grant such a radical variance. “This area is a pretty dynamic area,” Mr. White said, cautioning against the precedential impact of a yes vote. “If we set the bar too low,” he said, it will be hard to say no to applicants in the future.
At the close of business, Mr. Walter announced that the board will soon move the start time for its scheduled Tuesday meetings from 7:30 to 6:30 p.m.