Neighbors Lament Staircase Loss

    The attorney for Kenneth Reiss of Driftwood Lane in Springs appeared before the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday evening. Having purchased in 2010 roughly two-thirds of an acre that looks out over Gardiner’s Bay, Mr. Reiss has applied for a natural resources special permit to construct a 4,571-square-foot house, a swimming pool, a pool house, and an extensive patio within the setback zones for both tidal wetlands and the coastal bluff crest.
    Several of Mr. Reiss’s neighbors spoke out against the application. “I live across the street and I’ve been there for 45 years,” Thomas Fahey said. “The question is, who owns the beach?” Mr. Fahey referred to the “Yom Kippur staircase incident,” in which a prior owner of the property suddenly removed a staircase that had been used by residents for years to access the bay beach. Margaret Backman of Driftwood Lane also referred to the removal of the staircase in voicing opposition to Mr. Reiss’s application.
    Brian Frank, the chief environmental analyst for the Town Planning Department, reminded Z.B.A. members that in 2007 they approved a permit for a slightly smaller house that would have been 100 feet away from the dune crest, the minimum distance required by the town code, as opposed to the present application, which proposes a building 83.6 feet away. Mr. Frank said Mr. Reiss is seeking to decrease the setback “on an ephemeral basis,” having to do with the difficulty of pinpointing the bay’s mean high water mark, which determines the required setback from the beach.
    Another of Mr. Reiss’s neighbors pointed out that the proposed building is “a big house for a little piece of property.” After reminding the audience that the size of the house was not the issue before the board, its chairman, Philip Gamble, proceeded to the next application.    A.D.H.