Delay on Second House

    The East Hampton Village Zoning Board plans to reopen the hearing on an unusual application from John and Suzanne Cartier, who seek to move their 2,575-square-foot house to the rear of their lot, add 182 square feet to it, and then construct a second 2,486-square-foot residence. The Cartiers’ intent is to live in the new house, while their children and grandchildren take up residence in the existing one. The property, at 105 Main Street, shares a driveway with the East Hampton Historical Society’s Osborn Jackson house.
    The application came in on April 27 under a provision in the village code that allows “accessory structures with living accommodations.” It has drawn attention to that provision, which is rarely invoked. It also has raised questions about a 2010 decision by the village building inspector,  New York Village Law, the matter of a scenic easement, and whether the chairman of the Z.B.A. should recuse himself.
    “The somewhat outdated law is still on our books so that gardeners, chauffeurs, and maiden aunts could have their own living quarters, which gave relief to families,” Lysbeth A. Marigold, a Z.B.A. member, said at the board’s hearing on the application on Sept. 28.
    “Prior to being on this board, I never realized how many properties have secondary cottages on them; I recently saw a property with two cottages.” However, Ms. Marigold said she was disturbed that the two houses would be similar in size, although she thought the lot was large enough to accommodate both. Craig Humphrey, another Z.B.A. member, also expressed concern that the accessory house would be “too big.”
    Two hearings had been held on the application previously, on July 13 and Aug. 24. At the hearing on Sept. 28, Andrew Goldstein, the Z.B.A. chairman, restricted discussion to the building inspector’s July 2010 letter denying a permit for the work. At the time, the inspector, Tom Lawrence, found that the property did “not satisfy the lot area requirements.”
    “The building inspector’s letter does not mention the size of the houses; it only mentioned the property,” Mr. Goldstein said on Sept. 28. “The issue before this board is whether the lot area requirements concerning setbacks are met. They are, and at the next meeting we will adopt a determination to that effect.”
    Mr. Goldstein added that the code’s use of the word “accessory” could be misleading as it seems to indicate that one building should be smaller than the other. “The code does not say how big or small the accessory building should be.”
    “The law is vague,” Larry Hillel, another board member, said. “It can go both ways. I would consider this application on its merits for a variance.”
    Mr. Goldstein disagreed that the law was vague, saying Mr. Hillel’s view was “in the minority,” and that the building inspector must now decide whether the building is “accessory.” The hearing is now to be continued on Oct. 26.
    “This was a simple area variance application,” Jeffrey Bragman, the Cartiers’ attorney, told The Star last Thursday, “and the board agreed with one of our arguments — that we do not need a variance.” Mr. Bragman said that a box on the application form indicating that the Cartiers were seeking an area variance had been checked in error.
    Meanwhile, in an Oct. 2 letter, Anthony Pasca, an attorney representing Gordon Bowling, whose house off Main Street is adjacent to the Cartier site, claimed the board had “no jurisdiction to entertain” their application because New York Village Law states that a zoning board has 60 days to hear an appeal from a building inspector’s decision. Moreover, he noted that the Cartier application made no reference to that decision.
    “Mr. Pasca’s letter is inaccurate and incorrect,” Mr. Bragman said. “The building inspector letter was referring to an entirely different scenario. At that time, the houses were to be placed in different locations, and they were to be different sizes than those in the current proposal.”
    Mr. Bowling had registered an opinion earlier that a second house on the Cartier property should be ruled out on other grounds. In a letter to the East Hampton Village Board in August, Mr. Bowling said that a scenic/large lot easement granted to the village in 1976 by the East Hampton Historical Society appears to cover the Cartiers’ property as well. Reportedly, there has been no response to the letter.
     Mr. Bowling has also sent a letter to the Z.B.A. asking that Mr. Goldstein recuse himself because he had said he was “good friends” with the couple. Mr. Goldstein is the chairman of the Village Preservation Society, which was founded by Mr. Cartier. But saying he had no financial or familial relationship to the Cartiers, Mr. Goldstein refused to do so. One of the Z.B.A. members, however, John McGuirk III, has recused himself, noting that he has business ties to the applicants.
    Linda Riley, the village attorney, who challenged Mr. Bragman’s interpretation of applicable laws at the hearings this summer, did not attend the hearing on Sept. 28. Although present in the room, neither Mr. Bragman nor Mr. Pasca spoke, resulting in the hearing lasting only 30 minutes. This was different from prior hearings, which included two to three-hour debates on legal statutes and about house-to-lot ratios, setbacks, and what constitutes an accessory structure.