Pros and Cons Confront Village Z.B.A.

    The East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals heard emotional appeals from two residents who spoke on separate applications before it on Friday.

   One of the applications, which drew opposition, was from adjacent property owners, Kevin and Mary Harty of 21 La Forest Lane, and C Squared Holdings, the owner of 27 La Forest Lane. They were seeking permission to shift the boundary between the parcels, which, Richard Whalen, an attorney representing the applicants, said would result in one property shrinking by 6,346 square feet, to 41,534 square feet, while the other would grow by the same amount, to 57,591 square feet.  

    The other application was from Jane H. Maynard of Baiting Hollow Road, who implored the board to consider personal circumstances and grant nine retroactive variances.

    According to Richard Whalen, an attorney representing the La Forest property owners, the Hartys’ property would become smaller and the applicable yard setbacks would change, requiring an area variance. A swimming pool on the C Squared lot, Mr. Whalen said, would “become more nonconforming.”

    “There’s no net change,” Mr. Whalen said. “The land transferred from one goes to the other.”

    The C Squared building envelope would retain its present width, 114 feet, while the width of the building envelope on the Harty lot would decrease to 91 feet. “The total area on which one can build on the two lots actually decreases,” he said, adding that it was “only a peculiarity in how setbacks work” that brought the applicants before the board. He called the proposed change modest and said the size of the lots would remain comparable to others in the vicinity.

    Minimum lots of 160,000 square feet are required in the zoning district. “No construction, no new structures, no physical changes to anything,” Mr. Whalen said of the properties.

    William Dejonge of 17 La Forest Lane, however, challenged Mr. Whalen’s characterization of the lot-line modification. “In my understanding . . . by increasing 27 La Forest Lane by 6,346 square feet, the buildable area increases by approxmately 640 square feet,” he said. He also asserted that if 21 La Forest Lane were to shrink, the setbacks would also shrink, meaning a new structure could be built closer to the lot lines. “Is that a misunderstanding on my part?” he asked the board.

    Frank Newbold, the board’s chairman, told Mr. Dejonge that he was correct, that the side-yard setback would decrease from 27.31 feet to 24 feet. The notice for the hearing, Mr. Dejonge said, includes no construction plans, but “it just seemed a bit incomplete that somebody would acquire, at presumably substantial expense, extra [land] with no intention to take advantage of the extra square footage.” When Larry Hillel, a board member said that both lots were considerably under-built, Mr. Dejonge shot back, “It’s not irrelevant if you take a pre-existing, nonconforming [lot] and make it even more so.” 

    Mr. Newbold concurred that while the applicants were not applying for a construction permit at the moment, “they have the right to in the future.”

    One should expect, Mr. Dejonge warned, that subsequently there would “be a miraculous development of plans to do something with that extra square footage. Therefore, if one acts on this, you should think about it as a preamble to the second shoe which is inevitably going to drop, which is to build a larger structure.”

    The lot-line modification, he said, would not be, as Mr. Whalen described it, “a wash,” because it changes where structures could be built. “It does have impacts on the neighbors,” he said.

    Mr. Whalen repeated his statement that the combined building envelopes would decrease. Gross floor area, “which is the size of the buildings, will change, and I think it is a wash. Allowed [gross floor area] will be reduced on the Harty lot . . . so the size of a house on that lot will be decreased, but proportionally the size of a possible house on the [C Squared] lot will be increased.” The maximum permitted gross floor area, he said, would increase by about 640 square feet. “There’s really no material effect on the neighbors in terms of yard setbacks and total building size that can be built on both lots,” he said, though he conceded that the applicants “probably do have plans to do something.”

    The board expects to rule on the application at its next meeting, on Sept. 13.

    William J. Fleming, an East Hampton attorney,  represented Ms. Maynard, who is seeking nine variances for existing structures: a deck, garage, swimming pool patio, pool equipment shed, brick surrounding an herb garden, stone steps, and slate walkways.

    Mr. Fleming said the Maynard house was “quite a marvelous rebuild” and contained only 60 percent of the allowable gross floor area. “It is, in modern parlance, almost modest,” he said, “where people are maxing out to the very perimeters of a property.”

    But, he conceded, a series of mistakes had been made. “The builder acknowledged that when he sited the proposed garage he didn’t have the surveyor stake it — he did it off the existing residence.” It wound up being a half-foot farther toward the rear yard than was permitted, or 29.3 feet rather than 29.8 feet, he said. “I submit that is a de minimus amount.”

    Regarding the swimming pool, Mr. Fleming said a decision had been made “in the field” that a three-foot surround could be expanded to five feet, exceeding the permitted setback by 18 inches. “Again, I submit that a foot and a half could not be noticed by the naked eye.” Similarly, it was decided that an outdoor shower be installed, increasing the size of the pool shed to house a hot-water heater.

    Decisions were made, Mr. Fleming said, based on the safety of the homeowner. Slate walkways such as exist here had not been regulated structures, he said, “but now everything is regulated.”

    Ms. Maynard’s husband, Walter Maynard, is retired and suffers from some disability with his legs, Mr. Fleming said. “We would appreciate it if that walkway can be regularized.” The Maynards own adjacent properties, and Mr. Fleming said the nearest neighbor had no objection to the variances.

    Mr. Newbold reminded the attorney that the property had been before the board before and that it had issued a determination on Feb. 10, 2012, that specifically stated the setbacks for the swimming pool and garage. Noting the number of variances now being requested, he asked, “Would not it have been better to come back to the board and say, ‘This is what’s required?’ ”

    Mr. Fleming conceded the point, “but I was not involved in the construction.” During construction, he said, “there seemed to be a loss of communication between the owner and the contractor. I respectfully submit that since the Maynards are the adjacent owner to the east, any variances are against their own interest and thus not against any other neighbors.” He added that Baiting Hollow Road is approximately 35 feet from the property line. 

    Mr. Newbold asked Mr. Fleming if his client might re-examine the application and identify some requests that could be eliminated “that would not change the safety of the structure but would indicate a stronger will to adhere to the previous variance.” 

    At that point, Ms. Maynard, who had been sitting in the last row of folding chairs, approached the lectern. Visibly upset, she asked for “some consideration,” saying that, “this has been a very aggravating experience both for my husband, who’s been ill all winter, and myself. We have been put through the wringer many times, and it gives us a very, very bad feeling about living in this area at all.”

    Mr. Maynard, she said, is 81 and has been hospitalized in Southampton and New York City with Lyme disease. “All of the burden of this has been put on me. I’ve probably aged 10 years over all this in what I’ve been through.” She said “mistakes definitely were made,” but added that she “would never do another building project again in this area under these circumstances. I respectfully submit that you might reconsider putting this off yet again because I’m really tired of going through it.”

    Mr. Newbold promised to take the circumstances into account. Noting that variances had been approved previously, he said, “Considerations were given for the house, and now we are finding that that was taken a few steps further. So we’re asking you to review what actually did happen.”