House-Size Plan Revised

Building code proposal includes grandfather clause
East Hampton Town could further limit residential construction. A hearing on measures intended to preserve the town's architectural character will be on Thursday. David E. Rattray

Proposed changes to the East Hampton Town building code will be the subject of hearings before the town board at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall next Thursday. It is the second time revisions will be aired, after comments at an earlier hearing prompted some revisions.

A major change in the law calculating the size of houses according to their lot size sets the maxiumum gross floor area at 10 percent of the lot plus 1,600 square feet. In a resolution, the change is said to be intended “to preserve the town’s rural and historic character.”  An existing provision that also limited gross floor area to 20,000 square feet regardless of the size of a property would remain in place.

Provisions enacted in 2008 limited house sizes to 12 percent of lot size, plus 1,600 square feet, along with a maximum of 20,000 square feet, whichever was less. Restricting the construction of “monster homes” said to “threaten the character of the community” had been recommended in the town’s 2005 update of its comprehensive plan. “Regulating the residential gross floor area according to lot size would help to assure that new construction is more compatible with the scale and character of existing development,” the comprehensive plan says.

 The current town board “feels that large homes have continued to threaten the character of the community,” according to the resolution to be considered next week.

The second draft of the gross floor area regulation, written after questions were raised at a November hearing by people who had already begun house construction, will contain a grandfathering provision, as will other revised building codes.

Those who, as of Dec. 15, have a valid building permit, an application before or an approval from the planning board, zoning board, or architectural review board, or who have applied for a building permit that requires no other town approvals would be exempt from new restrictions, should they be approved.

Other laws to be heard again next week with the grandfathering provision added include a revised definition of cellar, prohibiting them from extending more than 10 percent beyond the foundation walls of a building’s first floor and restricting their ceiling height; an amended definition of the way coverage is calculated, to address raised buildings and overhangs, and a revised definition of the way gross floor area is calculated.

Cellars, attics, or spaces with ceilings of less than five feet would be excluded from the calculation, but stairwells and interior spaces with a ceiling height of more than 15 feet would be counted twice toward gross floor area.

Under a revised draft of that regulation, modified based on comments at the previous public hearing, that provision would apply only in residential, and not commercial, buildings.