Z.B.A. Yes and No

    The expansion of a house and an artist’s studio along with a Zen garden got a peace sign from the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals at a busy Sept. 10 work session, but a deer fence on the same property raised the board members’ ire.

    The almost one-acre property, at 58 Fenmarsh Road on Hog Creek in Springs, contains a 1,432-square-foot two-story house and 592-square-foot studio. An eight-foot-high deer fence, which, according to a memo prepared for the board by Lisa D’Andrea of the town’s Planning Department, sits on wetlands and was installed without permits.

    The board first considered the application at a hearing on Aug. 28. Peter Gamby proposed a 488-square-foot addition to the first floor of the house, a 165-square-foot addition to the second floor, and a 413-square-foot expansion of the studio. He also said he would upgrade the sanitary system and move the deer fence from actually in the wetland to its border.

    The setback variances required to construct the additions varied from 9.5 to 42.9 feet. The fence, however, would have required an even greater setback variance; Mr. Gamby proposed placing it right at the wetland’s edge when 100 feet is required. This translated to a 100-percent variance. The board was unanimously against any such variance both at the initial hearing and on  Sept. 10.

    “What we have to deal with here is a structure in a wetland that is strictly prohibited by town code,” Alex Walter, the board’s chair, said in August. Three weeks later, that sentiment was expressed by the other four members of the board.”To me, it’s pretty clear the deer fence should go,” Don Cirillo said. The rest of the board concurred that it would have to be removed.

    The expansion of the house and studio was another matter, with the board voting 5-to-0 to allow all the needed variances for the house but agreeing to the variance for the artist’s studio by a split vote.

    “I don’t have a problem with extending the living space. I do have a problem with the expansion of the artist’s studio,” Mr. Cirillo said. He pointed out that the proposed expansion would make the studio larger than some of houses in the neighborhood. Mr. Walter agreed.

    David Lys, however, took the opposite view. He had looked inside the studio, which is used by Mr. Gamby’s wife. “She did have a lot of large pieces,” he said. He argued that the expansion “stays in character with the neighborhood,” and Brian Gosman and Lee White  agreed, setting up a 3-to-2 vote for approval.

    The Zen garden on the property was the final issue. The Planning Department had recommended a 10-foot wide buffer between the garden and the wetland. The problem was that, because of a retaining wall, the buffer proposed would destroy part of the garden.

    “The guy has a beautiful Zen garden,” Mr. Walter said. “It was the first Zen garden I’d ever seen, to be truthful, but it is beautiful.” In the end the board agreed, perhaps in a spirit of tranquillity, to ask the Planning Department and Mr. Gamby to work together to find a way to have the garden and a buffer zone coexist peacefully.