Zoning Board Still Stuck on Creeks

Ronald Perelman hopes to resolve property’s many transgressions
The main entrance to Ronald Perelman's Creeks property in East Hampton, where a number of buildings were altered without the required village approvals. David E. Rattray

Frank Newbold, the chairman of the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals, began its meeting on Friday by asking for a moment of silent remembrance for William J. Fleming, an attorney who died last Thursday. 

“Bill has appeared many times in front of this board,” he said, “and I know that we will all miss his knowledge, and his wit, going forward.”

The board then went on to take a second look at Ronald Perelman’s application to legalize the construction and alteration of multiple structures at the Creeks, his 58-acre estate on Georgica Pond, following the submission of requested materials including maps, surveys, drawings, and a landscape restoration plan. 

In 2012, the village discovered that the billionaire investor and philanthropist had constructed and altered multiple structures at the Creeks without building permits, while, more recently, the village board declined his proposal to resolve the violations by the creation of a new zoning district. 

Mr. Perelman seeks to legalize the enlargement of an accessory building housing a small synagogue to 1,275 square feet, where the maximum permitted for an accessory building is 250 square feet, along with legalization of the building’s three rooms and two bathrooms, where only one room is permitted, and permission for the building to remain at a height of 15.1 feet, where the maximum is 14 feet.

He also seeks variances to legalize 160 square feet of additions to the main residence and for the earlier extension, expansion, and alteration of nonconforming accessory buildings containing cooking and living facilities. The additions are 100 feet from wetlands, where a 150-foot setback is required. 

The combined floor area for the one-family dwellings would be 28,407 square feet, where 26,236 square feet is the legally pre-existing total. 

Variances would also be required to legalize the construction of a 5,802-square-foot barn with cooking and living facilities, which Mr. Perelman proposes in exchange for converting a 4,217-square-foot carriage house, also containing cooking and living, into an accessory building with storage space, mechanical areas, a generator, a workshop, a garage, and a bathroom.

A workout room in a separate building, which was enlarged from 575 to 795 square feet and falls within the wetlands setback, also requires variances. In addition, area and wetlands setback variances are required to legalize six pieces of art and sculptures installed within the rear-yard and wetlands setbacks, the nearest directly on the rear-yard lot line and wetlands; the required rear-yard setback is 40 feet, the required wetlands setback 150 feet. 

Wetlands setback variances would also be necessary for a chicken coop and trellises and for the clearing of vegetation and landscaping within 125 feet of wetlands. Finally, a maintenance tent that is 67 square feet larger than the maximum permitted also requires a variance.

On Friday, Mr. Newbold focused on the applicant’s proposal to legalize the barn in exchange for converting the carriage house to a non-habitable structure, which he referred to as the transfer of rights.

 “The sense of the board is that transferring is not a concept currently in our village code, and we wouldn’t want to set a precedent here,” he said. The requested variances would be considered on their own merits, he said, and weighed against mitigation offered. 

Linda Riley, the village’s attorney, said that Mr. Perelman seeks an area variance for the barn on the basis that there’s no new use being introduced, but she suggested that he may in fact need a use variance. “We need to clarify, because it has always been the position of this board that introduction of a new dwelling on a lot that is already improved with one or more dwellings requires a use variance. . . . I just want to be careful about how you’re going to regard future applications for construction of an entirely new residence or dwelling on a lot that already has dwellings.”

Leonard Ackerman, an attorney representing Mr. Perelman, argued that the application meets the requirements for an area variance, and the mitigation offered — eliminating habitable space from the carriage house — entitles the granting of that variance. “We’ve done an exorbitant amount of research and analysis,” he said, “to demonstrate that as the steward of this property, the applicant should be and is” entitled to relief.

Mr. Newbold asked for a more detailed revegetation plan and said that 70,000 square feet of a proposed 110,188-square-foot buffer between the property and Georgica Pond had been illegally cleared within the 125-foot wetlands setback. He said Mr. Perelman’s landscape planner should meet with Billy Hajek, the village’s planner, to review the revegetation.

The chairman also said that the application proposed a new septic-system for the carriage house, synagogue building, workout room, pool cabana, and barn as “phase one” of an upgrade. He therefore asked how the second phase, to follow in two years and cover everything else on the property, would be enforced. Ms. Riley said she would discuss the matter with code enforcement officials.

Finally, Mr. Newbold repeated a suggestion made previously: Would the applicant consider reducing or even eliminating some of the nonconforming structures? The board seeks to make any variance relief as minimal as possible, he said. “Just something for you to consider,” he advised Mr. Ackerman.

The hearing was left open and will be continued at the board’s next meeting, on Feb. 9.

Decisions Announced

Six determinations were announced at the meeting.

 The board denied Patricia Romanzi’s application for variances to legalize the intensification of the commercial property at 15 Toilsome Lane through the addition of two office units on a lot that does not meet the on-site parking requirements. Ms. Romanzi operates a mortgage company, Par East, there.

According to Mr. Newbold, the building must revert to the four units specified on the original certificate of occupancy. The code stipulates that two additional parking spaces must be provided for each additional unit in a building; the lot at 15 Toilsome Lane would need 43 spaces to comply; it has 23. 

Edward and Diane Curland were granted variances allowing a deck and fire pit to remain within required setbacks at 46 Baiting Hollow Road. The board also approved 2,804 square feet of coverage where the maximum is 2,340 square feet, 

The board granted Nancy Perl and Alexander Benderoth a variance to allow a generator to remain within the front-yard setback at 63 Jericho Road.

At 92 Georgica Close Road, Walter Weil was granted a wetlands permit to allow removal of phragmites by hand-cutting and mechanical excavation; pool equipment to remain within the wetlands and rear-yard setbacks, and a generator to remain within the wetlands setback.

Francois Simard was granted variances to allow four statues, an air-conditioning condenser, a concrete stoop, paving stones, and a propane tank to remain within required setbacks at 116 Pantigo Road, but his application to allow a hot tub, pool heater, and pool filter to remain within side-yard setbacks was denied.

Benjamin Lewis and Jane Goldman were granted variances at 74 Lee Avenue for the 74-square-foot extension of a nonconforming second dwelling, for which a special permit had been granted in 2000. Also approved were slate patios, air-conditioning units, a trampoline, a chimney, below-grade HVAC, and pool equipment that fall within required setbacks.