Third Time Successful

Michelle Napoli | August 27, 1998

Harold Rocker has tried twice, without luck, to get permission to build on his Napeague Meadow Road, Amagansett, property. On his third go-around, he met with success.

Or at least in part. The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, during a work session following Mr. Rocker's Aug. 18 hearing, approved the proposed house, with a wraparound porch and sanitary system, but denied a request for a detached garage.

The property, meanwhile, has been appraised for the town. It is one of several in the immediate area that has been recommended for acquisition in the town's preservation plan, an update of its Open Space Plan.

Flood-Prone

The board turned down his two earlier applications for a house and detached garage on the half-acre parcel on the grounds that the development was too intensive for the property, which has wetlands and is flood-prone (part of it is often underwater).

Mr. Rocker's land is at the eastern edge of the extensive Napeague State Park. Though it lies within the Napeague Harbor watershed, his attorney, William J. Fleming of East Hampton, reminded the board that the property was not included in the town's harbor protection district.

Nonetheless, Mr. Fleming said, his client is willing to meet the district's more stringent requirements.

50-Foot Wetland Setback

Besides a natural resources permit, a 50-foot wetland setback variance was requested for the septic system. Mr. Fleming told the board that in designing the project, his client chose to place the system closer to a pocket wetland that is often disturbed by the Long Island Rail Road clearing vegetation from its right of way.

The intent, the lawyer said, was to keep the septic system as far as possible from another wetland, more extensive and presumably even more valuable.

Mr. Rocker had done his best to reduce the size of the proposed structures to allay the board's concerns expressed in its first two decisions, Mr. Fleming said, adding that the latest proposal reduced total coverage by 32 percent from the first.

Saturated Ground

Brian Frank, speaking for the Town Planning Department, said Mr. Rocker had "done a commendable job to mitigate" the project, but reminded the board that Napeague Harbor is one of the cleanest on Long Island, possibly, he said, the cleanest narrow-mouthed harbor.

The ground where the house is proposed becomes completely saturated at certain times - depending on rainfall, storm activity, and tides - raising concerns that sewage will find its way into the harbor, Mr. Frank said. The size of a house, the planner added, affects the amount of effluent produced as well as the amount of water used.

Philip Gamble, the vice chairman of the board and its Amagansett representative, wondered whether there would be enough potable water to serve the house in the future, noting the current problem and proposed water main at nearby Lazy Point.

Looking To Future

In addition, Mr. Frank suggested the board consider carefully the location of Mr. Rocker's well. Where it's being sited, Mr. Frank said, could force septic systems on neighboring lots, should they be developed, to be sited much closer to the wetlands and make significant wetlands setback variances inevitable.

As they have in the past, board members expressed a sense that this property might not be appropriate for development at all. Mr. Gamble asked Mr. Fleming if the town ever approached his client and offered to buy the property.

No, said Mr. Fleming. "I'm a little upset the town couldn't see fit" to try to buy Mr. Rocker's property and his neighbors', said Mr. Gamble, in what he called a "problem area."

Town Purchase?

A property where often "more than half of it's under water" doesn't seem a proper place for a building, Mr. Gamble added.

But, he said, the scaled-down house was more appropriate to the area, and Mr. Gamble agreed to approve it. He voted against the garage, though, and Heather Anderson voted the same.

Jay Schneiderman, the board's chairman, agreed that "it would behoove the town to purchase this property." But, he added in approving both the house and garage, Mr. Rocker had a right to use his property.

Up On Stilts

Any house on the property, which is apparently for sale, will have to be elevated on stilts to meet flood-zone requirements.

With a house finally approved for the property after three tries, Mr. Gamble looked ahead to when its neighboring lots, even more burdened by wetlands, come before the Zoning Board.

"Wait until the other four lots," he said. "At least this has land."