Garage Apartment Conundrums Go On

On Friday a hearing on one was postponed and another was granted approval

Garages that contain apartments have drawn the attention of the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals in recent years and continued to do so on Friday when a hearing on one was postponed and another was granted approval.

The hearing on an application from the chief executive officer of Starbucks to legalize an accessory structure containing a garage and an apartment, which has nearly doubled from its original size, will resume at the board’s next meeting, on June 13. But its adjournment did not stop attorneys from lobbying the board to look favorably on the application and a neighbor from asking that it be denied.

Elizabeth and Julien Eisenstein of 10 Georgica Road, however, received approval to replace part of the foundation of a 1,018-square-foot, two-story garage that contains an apartment. It is sinking on one side and will be lifted onto a new foundation. Although the structure is a second residence on a single lot, it is legal because it predates the recent village code prohibition on such structures. The applicant had submitted an affidavit from a lifelong East Hampton resident, Frank Tillinghast, stating that he had visited the apartment more than 65 years ago.

Howard Schultz, of Starbucks, and his wife, Sheri Kersch-Schultz, own four-plus acres at 14 Gracie Lane. A prior owner had received zoning board approval to construct a 650-square-foot garage and caretaker’s apartment there in 1986. When the Schultzes bought the property in 1995, they obtained a certificate of occupancy that described the accessory structure the same way as in 1986. The building now measures 1,022 square feet and includes four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a half-bath.

In March, Leonard Ackerman, the Schultzes’ attorney, told the board the earlier certificate of occupancy had been ratified by the building inspector in 1995, which, he said, demonstrated an understanding that there were no code violations involved. He reiterated that opinion on Friday. He also argued that the previous owner’s 1986 request for a variance had been unnecessary because the property was larger than four acres, allowing a secondary dwelling under the village code at the time. (The village rescinded that provision last year.)

In 2012, when the Schultzes sought to add two bedrooms and two bathrooms to their main house, the building inspector noted that the accessory structure did not match the last C. of O. The zoning board granted the request on the condition that the accessory structure be reduced to its original 650 square feet, a condition to which the applicant agreed. Mr. Schultz now promises to reduce the number of bedrooms and bathrooms to two each if the Z.B.A. allows them to keep the excess square footage.

Mr. Ackerman told board members that if the application were denied, “we, of course, have the right to go to another appellate entity . . . the Supreme Court in Riverhead, and ask them for the relief.”

Brian Matthews, representing Donald Kostin, a neighbor who owns 73 Lily Pond Lane, said the application contained nothing that would allow the board to even entertain the request, much less grant it, calling it “rife with faulty factual premises and irrelevant legal discussions.”

“They continually overlook the fact that in 1986 specific square footages were given,” Mr. Matthews said, referring to numerous attorneys who have argued on the Schultzes’ behalf. Mr. Matthews noted that the village had rescinded the provision allowing secondary structures on certain properties before the Schultzes filed their present application. Mr. Ackerman’s memorandum, he said, “contains absolutely no discussion of that controlling fact at all. I think that’s pretty telling.” The application to legalize the structure, he said, isn’t permitted under the village code, “and it’s not permitted to be modified by any vehicles that they put in front of you.”

In other action, the board granted an adjournment, until June 27, of a hearing on an application from Loida Lewis, concerning her property at 165 Lily Pond Lane. She seeks permits and variances to allow the reconstruction and expansion of a pre-existing one-story cottage as an addition to the main house there. She also seeks the continued existence of a 650-square-foot game room with half-bath that was converted from a garage and 400 square feet of decking and stairs.