Vacancy Complicates Variance Request

For the first time since Lee White resigned from the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, leaving the panel with four rather than five members, an application had to be denied because a member recused himself and the remaining three members could not agree.

An application before the board on Aug. 9 was from Scott Sinawi for property at 4 Waring Lane in Springs. He wants to partially demolish a house, leaving 598 square feet of it standing, which would be converted into a wood-working shop. He then would put up a 3,102-square-foot house with 1,800 square feet of decking, and build a swimming pool. His plans require wetland permits and a variance for the septic system.

 Given that the chairman of the board, John Whelan, recused himself, Elizabeth Baldwin, attorney for the board, said that unless the remaining three agreed on whether to approve or reject the application, it would be automatically denied. It soon became clear that the three members would not agree.

“This is a very aggressive and involved redevelopment of this property,” Cate Rogers told her fellow members, David Lys and Roy Dalene. “It abuts Accabonac Harbor, and wetlands to the north,” she said. But she concluded that replacing and moving the “antique” septic system with a modern one was a strong incentive for approval. The two other board members did not agree with her.

Further affecting the decision was that  the hearing on the application had been closed on June 21 and decisions are required within 62 days. Putting the vote off was not an option since a fourth member was not expected to be appointed within that time. The application was denied, but without prejudice, which means Mr. Sinawi could reapply in the future.

Under the state code governing the  local government, alternate members can be appointed to such boards, who might make a difference in cases such as this, but the  town board would have to amend the town code to allow such an appointment.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said last week that the town board was actively vetting potential candidates for the vacant post.

Another application denied that night was from Richard Giles, the owner of 23 Dogwood Street in Montauk. Mr. Giles wanted to build a 540-square-foot pool house, while the town code limits them to 200 square feet. Mr. Giles told the board during a July 26 public hearing that he has four daughters who need privacy. He added the pool house was designed to match the pool itself. His arguments fell on deaf ears.

Mr. Lys warned that approving the request would be precedent-setting, calling it a “massive variance request.” The board rejected the application unanimously.

Another application denied that night by a unanimous vote was that of Camellia Weinstein, the owner of 6 Prentice Place in Ditch Plain, Montauk. She wanted to tear down a small house on a lot that is  slightly over 7,000 square feet and replace it with a 2,473-square-foot, two-story house. The design of the house includes dormers, which extend toward neighboring properties, violating a town law. The board feared  the new house would loom over its neighbors and denied the application unanimously.