A House and a Restaurant

Sean MacPherson spoke at an East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Tuesday night about his application to build a small free-standing garage on his Montauk property, as well as adding second floor decking to his house. T.E. McMorrow

The owner of three properties at Ditch Plain in Montauk has been before the East Hampton Town Zoning Board on consecutive weeks, seeking variances for construction at two of the sites.

Sean MacPherson, a New York boutique-hotel developer, bought the house on Miller Avenue where he still lives in 2007, according to Tyler Borsack of the Town Planning Department. It is a small house, at 864 square feet, on a 37,081-square-foot parcel.

Much has changed in Mr. MacPherson’s life since he bought it, he told the board Tuesday night. He now owns the Crow’s Nest Inn and Restaurant, as well as a nearby set of cottages now named the David Pharaoh Cottages. But, he said, what has changed the most is his personal life. “When I bought this home I was single. I’m now married and have two children,” he said.

While the Miller Avenue property is relatively large — a little under an acre — it is constrained in terms of development because of wetlands throughout, and on adjacent land, Mr. Borsack wrote in a memo to the board.

According to Mr. MacPherson, his basement is prone to flooding. The garage is in the basement, on a downward-sloping drive. “The rainwater currently is directed into the basement,” he said, adding that it was not unusual after heavy rains to find several feet of water there.

The homeowner came before the board last year seeking wetlands-related variances for a 432-square-foot second-story addition, 812 square feet of additional decking, and a 600-square-foot garage. If the board okayed the garage, Mr. MacPherson planned to fill in the old downward entrance into the basement.

During last year’s hearing, Brian Frank, the Planning Department’s chief environmental analyst, argued against granting the variances needed for the garage, telling the board that 600 square feet was far too much coverage in such an environmentally sensitive area. The board agreed. It granted variances for the decking and the second floor, but not for the garage.

Mr. MacPherson reapplied this year, this time proposing a garage of just 360 square feet. The Planning Department again opposed it.

Britton Bistrian, Mr. MacPherson’s representative, offered a compromise: a 180-square-foot garage. The department was still opposed. “If an increase in coverage is going to be considered, it should consist of a much smaller structure, approximately 120 square feet or less,” Mr. Borsack wrote.

On Tuesday, Ms. Bistrian argued that 120 square feet was too small for a garage. The town’s own code, she said, requires 180 square feet for a single parking space.

Last year, a neighbor spoke against the 600-square-foot garage. This year, Ms. Bistrian noted, the same neighbor, in a letter to the board, was supporting the smaller structure.

“We just want a space to put the car, the strollers, etc., and independent of this whole process, we need to seal off our basement,” Mr. MacPherson told the board.

Members voted to keep the hearing open for one week to allow Ms. Bistrian to submit an updated survey of the property showing what has already been approved but is not yet built.

The Crow’s Nest was before the board the week before, on May 27, with an application to reconstruct the roof of the restaurant and another one elsewhere on the 1.6-acre property, which stands at the intersection of Old West Lake Drive and Route 27 by Lake Montauk. Mr. MacPherson would also like to add a pizza oven and a permanent Dumpster to the restaurant. The Crow’s Nest, like his house, contains and is bordered by wetlands.

Before that hearing took place, Tom Preiato, the town’s chief building inspector, determined that the pizza oven (though not the Dumpster) would be an expansion of use of the property. The restaurant is in a residential zone but is allowed to operate as a business because its creation predates the zoning code.

When Ms. Bistrian informed Mr. MacPherson of Mr. Preiato’s decision, he withdrew the request for the pizza oven. There was no public or departmental opposition to the remaining variances requested.

The board may decide both applications when it meets next week.

The third parcel in Mr. MacPherson’s Ditch holdings, a 66,333-square-foot property on South Lake Drive less than 500 feet as the crow flies from the Crow’s Nest, is currently before the Planning Board, where it is undergoing site plan review.