Argue Effect on Wetlands

       For the second time in about a year, the owners of a house on Gardiner’s Bay in Amagansett have asked the  East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals to allow them to demolish it and build a larger one. And, for the second time, the Planning Department has taken a vociferous stance against their proposal. At issue are distances from the wetlands on the property and from the dune crest.

       Carol Sedwick, a retired television director, and Michael Patrick, a New York attorney, own the slightly over 2,000-square-foot house on about an acre at 295 Cranberry Hole Road. They hope to build a 3,100-square-foot, two-story house with decking on both floors. The decking would be between 31 and 27 feet from wetlands when 100 feet is required, and the house and decking would be 85 feet and 72 feet from the dune crest where 100 feet is required. Variances would also be needed for the septic system and the amount of clearing.

       During a public hearing on Feb. 4, William Leeds, the couple’s architect, told the board that the house, built in the late 1980s, had “outlived its usefulness. It does not respond to this site,” he said. “The plan used was a plan that could be purchased from the back of a magazine.” He added that the existing brick chimney was decrepit, because “it was not set up for the kind of winds” it is subjected to on a regular basis, and that the house would have to be raised in order to meet Federal Emergency Management Administration regulations.

       He had made these points previously, on Jan. 29, 2013. Opposing the application at that time was David Rattray, the editor of The Star, whose house  is separated from the parcel in question by a wetlands lot owned by the Peconic Land Trust. He had expressed concern about ongoing dune erosion.

       Brian Frank, the Planning Department’s chief environmental analyst, called the wetlands there significant, much as he had last year. Explaining the Planning Department’s adamant opposition to the application, Mr. Frank said the property has “significant volumes of standing water year round. I have never seen it dry. You have one of the highest diversity of species. This network of wetlands is sweet,” he said. “I have seen waterfowl, raptors, wading birds, marsh hawks, northern harriers, spotted turtles, snakes.”

       Mr. Patrick and Ms. Sedwick were represented by a team headed by Laurie Wiltshire of Land Planning Services, and Rick Whalen, their attorney. Ms. Wiltshire and Mr. Frank argued about whether the house had been built within 25 feet of the wetlands, in keeping with a variance granted when it was constructed, or 30 feet, which Ms. Wiltshire said was the case, with five feet remaining.

       Mr. Whalen challenged Mr. Frank about the effect granting the variances would have on the wetlands. “Brian Frank spoke 35 minutes and did not give you one factual reason how this project would upset the wetlands. No evidence,” he said.

       The board has until April 7 to make its decision. However, since the first hearing on the application, two new members have joined the board. David Lys replaced Sharon McCobb last year, and Cate Rogers replaced Lee White this year. Both former members had voted against the application. It now appears that the new members may control the decision.