Columnist's House A Hot Item

Conor Berry | March 25, 1999

    Cindy Adams, the veteran New York Post gossip columnist, has built herself a two-story headache.

     An anonymous phone call to the Southampton Town Building Department early last fall tipped off building inspectors that Ms. Adams had constructed several structures on her Lumber Lane, Bridgehampton, property, without the requisite permits.

     The chief building inspector, Paul Houlihan, dispatched an inspector, who discovered that a two-story "guest house" as well as two freestanding sheds and additions to the main house had been built on the site, about a third of an acre, without benefit of permits.

     A worst-case scenario, according to the town attorney's office, could require Ms. Adams to demolish the guest house. She has applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance to legalize it, and a hearing has been scheduled for next Thursday evening.

     Residents of the neighborhood recently formed the Concerned Citizens for the Preservation of Lumber Lane, "an ad-hoc group of neighbors," said Morris Zand, who lives next door to Ms. Adams.

     Mr. Zand said the group was formed to preserve the "rural, small-town, residential character of the neighborhood" and to make sure laws and codes were enforced.

     "There's stretching the rules and there's ignoring the rules altogether," he said on Friday. "It appears she ignored the rules. I never saw any permits posted, yet I couldn't help but notice the work being done there."

     "I feel terrible," Mr. Zand added. "Nobody wants to put her through unnecessary financial hardship, but this is a case of a self-created hardship."

     Richard G. Hendrickson, an 86-year-old retired farmer who was "born and raised" on his family's farm, said he knows Ms. Adams's guest house is too close to property he owns on Narrow Lane, which borders hers.

'To Hell With Regulations'

     "These people come out here and it's to hell with the regulations and what you should and shouldn't do," said Mr. Hendrickson. His family once owned about 80 acres of farmland, much of it now dotted with houses.

     Mr. Zand has hired an attorney, Arthur DiPietro of Westhampton Beach, to represent the neighbors at the upcoming Z.B.A. hearing. Mr. DiPietro said there was a "distinct possibility" the board might demand that the two-story building be razed.

     "It has happened before; there is precedence for it," the lawyer said.

Second Dwelling

     Mr. Houlihan said Ms. Adams has now obtained permits for the two storage sheds built without them, but that the guest house and two additions to the main house are still in violation of the code.

     He said he was doubtful that the Z.B.A. "would allow a second dwelling on the property."

     The Z.B.A.'s counsel, David Gilmartin, was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. A deputy town attorney, Robert Marcincuk, said that even if the board did direct Ms. Adams to tear down the guest house, she still had a number of options.

     "She could ask for a stay, which would preclude the town from taking any action against her," said Mr. Marcincuk.

     In that case, he said, the gossip columnist might file an Article 78 suit, which challenges a ruling by an administrative board. If this scenario were to unfold, the case could end up at State Supreme Court in Riverhead.

     Should Ms. Adams lose there, said Mr. Marcincuk, she could appeal.

     As matters now stand, Ms. Adams faces a maximum fine of $350 for the building violations, according to the attorney.

Z.B.A. Hearings

     The Southampton Z.B.A. will also hold hearings next Thursday to consider the applications of Ruth Elliston for a 30-foot rear-yard setback variance to build a house on Narrow Lane 30 feet from the property line, and Dean and Gloria Poulmentis for a pyramid variance to build a garage on their Harry's Lane, Noyac, property.

     On two other applications, the board will accept written comments, but will not hold hearings.

     Lyle Pike needs minor rear and side-yard setback variances to build a house, garage, and pool on Seven Pond Towd Road in Water Mill, and Robert and Barbara Tanner of Rose Hill Avenue have asked for 20-foot side-yard and 4-foot rear-yard setback variances for a garage and addition.