Couple Hope to Build on Family Land on Napeague

East Hampton Town officials have expressed concern about flooding in the area where a new house has been proposed on Napeague. David E. Rattray

A public hearing before the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals on May 2 brought the history of a small and particularly constrained lot on Napeague into focus as members of an East Hampton family sought special permission and five variances for a retirement house.

Bruce Bistrian, a physician who has lived in Massachusetts for many years, and his wife, Eleanor Dix Bistrian, want to build on a slightly larger than half-acre parcel at 45 Napeague Harbor Road. They were represented by Richard Whalen of Land Marks and their daughter, Britton Bistrian of Land Use Solutions. Ms. Bistrian told the board her grandfather, Peter Bistrian, had owned a large triangular swath of land there bounded by the Long Island Rail Road tracks, Napeague Harbor Road, and a private road paralleling Napeague Harbor for about 50 years. In 1982, Ms. Bistrian said, he donated most of the property to the state and was promised that the family could develop the remainder.

The property is constrained by wetlands and dunes and lacks access from a public road. Because there is no direct access, the couple are asking permission to create an easement from an adjacent lot, which they also own. A variance is needed for that easement. Variances are also needed for setbacks from the wetlands of the proposed 2,114-square-foot house, its height, and its sanitary system.

Ms. Bistrian told the board her parents wanted to build their “dream house,” and pointed out that no amenities, such as a pool or hot tub, were planned. Dr. Bistrian also was at the meeting and told the board he and his wife have an 800-square-foot cottage on Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett. “I would like a somewhat larger house,” he said.

The Planning Department, represented by Brian Frank, the department’s chief environmentalist, said he appreciated the Bistrian family and its history and spoke respectfully about Ms. Bistrian. However, he said emotion should not carry the day.

“The proposed construction would result in significant habitat fragmentation to the wetlands and dune land,” he warned in a memo. Flooding in the area is a major concern, he told the board Tuesday. “The lowest elevations of the property are found less than four feet above sea level to the northwest of the proposed house and in the southern portion of the property where the driveway is proposed.” The rising sea level will only exacerbate the problem in coming years.

He called 10,000 square feet of clearing, which was shown on the survey, misleading, because of the undulating nature of the land.

“It is going to be very challenging to design a house and driveway that meets the special permit and variance standards,” he said, adding that it “may only be suited for cottage scale development.”

He also said that, since the Bistrians are asking for an easement for the driveway on the neighboring property, while maintaining that parcel for potential future development, the board should ask the Bistrians what they have in mind for its future. The lots were laid out before current zoning, which places them in a two-acre minimum district.

Two people spoke in support of the project, Dan Dubinsky and Michael Cinque. Randy Lerner, an owner of many Amagansett properties, wrote a letter of support, while Colleen and Robert Randle wrote a letter opposing the plans.

 Cate Rogers, a board member, agreed with Mr. Frank that it must adhere to the standards the code calls for, saying, “It is an appointed board.” The chairman, John Whelan, puzzled over how a landlocked lot could ever have been created, as well as the unusual shapes of some of the parcels. Mr. Whelan called it a “Euclidian” subdivision.

With many questions left unanswered, including topographical details, and mention of a possible redesign of the septic system, the board agreed to keep the hearing and record open, to allow Ms. Bistrian time.