The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals ruled on two controversial appeals Tuesday night, voting 3 to 2 to deny Bethany Mayer, owner of a tiny 4,000-square-foot parcel of land in Amagansett’s Beach Hampton neighborhood, the right to expand her house by adding a second floor, then voting unanimously to deny an appeal by Richard Eagan, an attorney, to reverse a building inspector’s determination allowing both residential and business development on the same piece of land, normally zoned for housing, in Wainscott.
Ms. Mayer, a single mother of one who runs a clothing shop in Sag Harbor, first appeared before the board on April 3, asking to expand the two-bedroom house at 25 Wyandanch Lane she bought last August. “It was all I could afford,” she said at the time. The house is on one of the smallest parcels of land in the town.
At issue was the town’s pyramid law, which prevents construction of a building out of proportion to the size of the plot of land.
Don Cirillo, a board member, argued strongly that Ms. Mayer had a right to build as she saw fit, especially since her attorney, Richard Hammer, had presented the board with a second plan scaling back the expansion to only 300 feet. The revised plan, however, was still in violation of the pyramid rule.
“This is not being done to flip the property. This is a hardship. We should encourage people to move into town,” Mr. Cirillo said.
Alex Walter, the board chairman, reminded members that there was a good deal of opposition from neighbors in April. “If the neighbors object to a variance, it would be a hard thing for me to grant,” said Lee White. He said Ms. Mayer, when she bought the house, should have known what she was getting.
“She bought a very small house on a very small lot. The pyramid law is there to protect the neighbors,” agreed Sharon McCobb.
Mr. Walter noted that the Z.B.A. had, in 1982, turned down a similar request for the same property. “I find it difficult to go back and rewrite history,” he said.
“That is the entire reason we have variances,” said Mr. Cirillo, adding that East Hampton should not only be for “rich retired people.”
“What hasn’t changed is that the lot is still only 4,000 square feet,” Mr. Walter responded.
Bryan Gosman voted with Mr. Cirillo for approval, but they were in the minority. Ms. McCobb, however, left the door open for Ms. Mayer to make a return visit to the board, remarking that “I don’t mind the size of it. It is just where it is going.” If the 300-square-foot expansion were to the north of the house, where the immediate neighbor is farther away, instead of the south, she would be inclined to vote for approval, she said.
Mr. Eagan, representing the Concerned Citizens of Wainscott, was appealing a June 2011 determination by Tom Preiato, the town’s acting chief building inspector, allowing dual usage on a property at Montauk Highway and Sayre’s Path.
Mr. Preiato referenced a variance granted by the zoning board in 1975 for the property.
Based on his recommendation, the town planning board in January approved the tear-down of the existing 1,375-square-foot building, to be replaced by a business of similar size and a 600-square-foot residence.
Since the site is zoned for residential use, a business there would normally not be permitted. However, the building predated the town’s zoning laws and was therefore considered a pre-existing, nonconforming structure, thus allowable.
In appealing that decision to the zoning board, Mr. Eagan argued on March 27 that the building, which had been built as a diner, could not be replaced by a “dual-usage” plan, the right to such usage having been forfeited in the 1975 action.
The owner of the site, Michael Davis, through his attorney, Denise Schoen, had argued that adding a residence to the site would bring it closer to the actual zoning code, and was thus an improvement.
Mr. Walter told the board, “The decision we will make will be on the merits of the building inspector’s decision.”
It became clear after a few more minutes of discussion that there was a consensus on the issue among the members, and they then rendered their verdict.
“If the board doesn’t get it correctly, the courts will,” Mr. Eagan said before the hearing began.