Beach Cottage to Grand ‘Cottage’

Disputed Sagaponack acreage is being prepped to grow big houses
 600-square-foot cottage
The Sagaponack Architectural and Historic Review Board has approved the demolition of this 600-square-foot cottage, on land that once belonged to the White family. Morgan McGivern

    The Village of Sagaponack, incorporated in 2005, may have to find a new logo. The sign in front of the village hall shows a potato field leading to the ocean waves, splitting the sea and sky. The field could only belong to John White, whose family has been continually tilling the soil of the last oceanfront farm in the area for over 300 years.
    But now, in the midst of a bitter legal confrontation that has provided tabloid fodder and sparked a national magazine story, a part of the White farm now owned by Anthony Petrello is being prepped to grow a couple of big houses.
    Sagaponack Village’s Architectural and Historic Review Board met on Friday to discuss Mr. Petrello’s requests to demolish a 600-square-foot cottage at 108 Sandune Court in Sagaponack’s beach district and construct a 4,681-square-foot “guest cottage” in its stead.
    The property is part of an almost 10-acre tract that Mr. Petrello purchased from John White in 1995 for $2.1 million and divided into three lots. The problems arose when it was noted at a later date, in the fine print, that Mr. Petrello had the right of first refusal on much of the remaining 46-plus acres of the White farm, a fact that Mr. White, who is now in his late 80s, does not recall as part of the agreement. Upping the ante is the fact that what was an area of mostly potato farms a few decades ago has now become among the most expensive land in the United States.
    The legal battle has been followed in local periodicals, New York City papers, and is the subject of a story in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine.
    Mr. Petrello has not submitted plans yet for his own main house. The house he owns outside of Houston is approximately 18,000 square feet.
    On Friday, Ann Sandford, chairwoman of the architectural review board, read the resolution approving the demolition application before the board and small group of attendees.
    The existing cottage, according to Ms. Sandford, has been “historically maintained,” and is in keeping with the historic criteria that the board adopted several years ago. However, Alison Cornish of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, upon visiting the cottage, deemed it “not suitable for rehabilitation,” due in part to reports of lead paint and creosote pilings, onto which the structure is “not securely fastened.”
    It was Ms. Cornish’s conclusion, and the board’s as well, that the cottage is of “no historical significance.” The board approved the demolition application by a vote of four to one, with Ms. Sandford voting nay.
    “I would have preferred a third option,” she said, “to relocate this camp and work with the Petrellos.”
    Mr. Petrello’s application for the new construction on the lot was met with concern by board members, who wondered how it would appear to beach walkers and other passers-by.
    The architect, Lisa Zaloga, was asked by the board to provide drawings that showed the proposed house from the ocean side and from Sandune Court.
    The discussion was tabled until the next meeting on Aug. 19.