Homeowner Wants Duneside Infinity Pool

After saying two years ago that he had abandoned plans for a new swimming pool in the dunes at his oceanfront property on Drew Lane, David Zaslav was back before the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals on Friday proposing a major overhaul of his existing pool that looked to some board members almost like an entirely new pool.

Mr. Zaslav, the president of Discovery Communications, and his wife, Pam, want to “take the structure there and basically modify it a little bit,” their attorney, Richard A. Hammer, told the board during a hearing on Friday. The pool would remain where it is, but would have infinity edges on all four sides, giving it a “more modern appearance” and allowing the water level to be higher. Doing so, however, would require excavating around the full perimeter of the pool by hand to allow extra space for the water to flow into an inch-wide gap in the coping and to be recycled back into the pool.

“Isn’t the pool getting bigger?” asked Frank Newbold, the board’s chairman. “You’re modifying all four sides of the pool and displacing 10 cubic yards of fill, which in this case is dune.”

“I do understand that this is the dune, but it’s pretty clear that this isn’t the average dune,” Mr. Hammer said, pointing out that the proposed work area had already been disturbed by the original construction and that the sand encountered by excavation would likely not look like original dune sand, but like compacted fill.

The Zaslavs bought the property from Jerry Della Femina in 2012. When they were first before the board in 2014 for variances for a number of other improvements, they had hoped to build a significantly larger pool. In order to comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, 40 pilings would have had to be driven into the primary dune, a fact that drew sharp criticism. While that portion of the application was withdrawn, the plan discussed Friday raised similar questions.

“At what point does it really become a new pool, and at what point does FEMA come in?” Mr. Newbold asked. All of the property at 26 Drew Lane is seaward of the coastal erosion hazard line, which triggers FEMA regulations for new construction and reconstruction of a certain size. The pool would need variances from the village’s dune preservation and coastal erosion hazard area regulations.

Mr. Newbold reminded Mr. Zaslav, who was at the hearing, that he had withdrawn his earlier pool application and that other changes the board approved in 2015 were contingent upon the pool “staying the same.”

“I view it as a very significant reduction in the scope of what we were planning to do here,” Mr. Hammer said. He pointed out that the infinity-edge style would also allow for a pool cover that could be automatically deployed, a safety feature important to his clients.

In part because the pool is shallower than average, “The cover is a big issue,” Mr. Zaslav said. He explained that a cousin had drowned in a pool, and that he knew someone who had become paralyzed after diving into one that was too shallow.

When board members asked Mr. Zaslav and his representatives at the hearing about the final footprint of the renovated pool and surrounding patio, his architect and his builder seemed to differ on how much fill would have to be removed. There was also a possibility that the sides of the pool would be raised to make it deeper.

“It would be helpful to have a picture of this before and after” to see “how the outline will change,” said Craig Humphrey, a board member. “Include an idea of what the patio would look like,” added Lys Marigold, another board member. The board asked Mr. Zaslav’s representatives to return with more details. The application will be taken up again at the board’s next meeting, on April 28.

Also on Friday, the board denied a variance requested by the operators of the Service Station restaurant at 100 Montauk Highway, who wanted to use an outdoor patio for dining. Shane Dyckman, an owner of the restaurant, told the board earlier this month that outdoor dining had been offered at the commercial structure, a pre-existing nonconforming use within a residential district, for 30 years. The board was firm in its opposition, however, citing previous determinations and the village code prohibition of the expansion of a pre-existing use in a residential district.

The board granted Howard Schultz, the chief executive officer of the Starbucks coffeehouse chain, and his wife, Sheri Kersch Schultz, variances to relocate a below-ground propane tank and install a brick walkway and bench at 14 Gracie Lane. Some of the construction will be seaward of the coastal erosion hazard area line. The board also approved 493 square feet more lot coverage than the maximum permitted under the code.

Robert and Julie Taubman of 41 Two Mile Hollow Road were granted variances to install a flagpole within the front-yard setback, six outdoor loudspeakers within the required setback from the 20-foot contour line of the ocean dune, and pool fencing. A variance was also granted to legalize a portion of a garage constructed within the setback from the 20-foot contour line. The variances were granted on the condition that the applicants install and maintain landscaping for the section of the property around the swimming pool.

Michael and Joan Hass were denied a variance that would allow them to maintain deer fencing that is taller than the six-foot limit allowed by the code, but they were allowed to maintain wood fencing in excess of six feet elsewhere on the property, at 19 Dunemere Lane.

With Reporting by 
Christopher Walsh