Cavett’s Tick Hall Before Z.B.A.

    Dick Cavett’s Tick Hall, one of seven McKim, Mead, and White houses on the Montauk ocean bluffs, and two houses on the waterfront on the other side of the Montauk peninsula, have made for interesting agendas at recent East Hampton Town Zoning Board meetings. The latter, an  application for erosion-control work on Soundview Drive, was approved on Tuesday. A hearing on Mr. Cavett’s application met with favorable response on April 23, although a decision is pending.
    The owners of adjoining properties along Soundview Drive sought to amend variances approved by the board in 2011 that allowed construction of stone revetments backed by a steel bulkhead to protect their houses from the encroaching Long Island Sound. At the hearing, they asked for permission to expand the revetments and their returns, essentially linking the two. Richard Hammer of the Montauk firm Biondo and Hammer told the board the expansion was needed because of damage from Superstorm Sandy. He said the houses were almost dangling over the Sound as a result.
    Brian Frank, the chief environmentalist of the Planning Department, said it did not oppose the work. However, he warned that storms that batter and shrink the coastline seem to be outstripping the technological advances being made to protect the coast. In the past, he said, protective structures were thought effective for 30 years. Now, he said, 10 years seems to have become the standard. The vote approving the work on the structures was approved 5-0.
     Tick Hall had been built in 1884 for Alexander E. Orr and is in a historic district. Mr. Cavett acquired it in the early 1960s. At the time, he was a writer for the Johnny Carson Show before going on to become a popular TV talk-show host in his own right. Disaster struck in 1997, however, when the house burned to the ground, leaving only a chimney visible from miles away. Mr. Cavett and his wife, the late Carrie Nye, saw to the house’s painstaking reconstruction, although it took until 2000 before a new certificate of occupancy was obtained.
    Mr. Cavett has a proven interest in the protection of ocean bluff environment, having purchased and sold a large parcel surrounding his house to the Town of East Hampton for preservation. The house now sits on 20 acres.
    His Z.B.A. application is for a 250-square-foot kitchen and bath addition, a 161-square-foot second-story porch, and a 92-square-foot ground-floor porch. Designed by Nicholas Botta, an East Hampton architect, the additions are modest in comparison to those the board normally sees. They require Z.B.A. variances, however, because of the proximity to freshwater wetlands. The town requires structures to be at least 100 feet from wetlands, and the additions would be about 32 feet and 98 feet from them. Mr. Cavett has already obtained approval from the Architectural Review Board. 
    In a memo to the board, Lisa D’Andrea, a town planner, noted that there are wetlands and wildlife natural habitats near the house. Indeed, Mr. Cavett’s application was presented to the board by Charles Bowman of a firm called Land Use Ecological Services. He told the board that the proposed additions would have no effect on the wetlands. “That area up there is heaven, to me,” he said. Ms. D’Andrea said the Planning Department did not have any problem with the proposed variances, and the board is expected to vote on the application at its next work session, on Tuesday.
    This week’s meeting was an introductory one for the board’s new attorney, Susanna M. Roxbury, who was hired by the town as an assistant attorney last week. She is being assisted, for the time being, by John Jilniki, the town’s head attorney.
    The former Z.B.A. attorney, Rob Connelly, left town service to go into private practice recently. He had been instrumental in introducing several changes in the procedure followed by the board, including a checklist before a vote is rendered, in which the pluses and minuses of an application, for both the town and the applicant, are compared.