Integrity of a 'Landmark' Modernist House at Issue

Members of the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals were pleased that Ellin Salzman seeks only minor additions and alterations to a house on Spaeth Lane that The New York Times called “a landmark of white modernism in East Hampton.” Durell Godfrey

The East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals considered an application on Friday for minimal variances from the owners of a house that, Frank Newbold, the Z.B.A. chairman, said, “is considered by many people a very important architectural icon in architecture books, built in 1969 by Richard Meier.”

Otherwise at Friday’s meeting, nine decisions were announced and five other applications discussed.

The owners of the architecturally significant house, which is at 20 Spaeth Lane, are not seeking to dramatically expand it. Instead, Ellin Salzman and her family have asked for variances to construct a pool house and pool equipment and to make alterations to a patio. At the hearing, Mr. Newbold pointed out that the house has 2,880 square feet of floor area, where 9,200 square feet is permitted, and that coverage of the nearly three-acre parcel is a little more than one-third of what is allowable.

The late Renny Salzman, an interior designer, gave Mr. Meier one of his first house commissions, according to his obituary in The New York Times, in 2000. The “starkly modern” house, The Times reported, “has become a landmark of white modernism in East Hampton.” It is featured in “East Hampton’s Heritage: An Illustrated Architectural Record” by Bob Hefner, the village’s historic preservation consultant, and was the subject of a 2012 feature in The Star.  

“I think a big part of this is to maintain the architectural integrity of what is a very historically important house,” Mr. Newbold said. Mark Catalano, an attorney representing the applicants, said they were “reluctant to make any change, and they haven’t made any change in 40-plus years.” But the pool house, pool equipment, and patio would fall within the required 75-foot front-yard setback, necessitating variance relief.

An existing pool house is to be renovated and a basement added, but that aspect of the plan does not require a variance. “They’re requesting a second pool house because the family is now three generations and they’re all out there together,” Mr. Catalano said. “This would allow a large dining area in between pool houses.” 

The neighboring oceanfront residence is more than 300 feet from the Salzmans’ swimming pool, Mr. Catalano said, and is mostly screened by vegetation. The driveway of the property would be most affected by approval of the variances, “so you’re nowhere near an adjacent residence,” Mr. Newbold said. “In short, a very modest proposal, totally in keeping with the property.”

“This is an easy one,” Craig Humphrey, a board member, said. The hearing was closed. 

The determinations were announced prior to the hearing on the Salzman property. David and Pam Zaslav, who own oceanfront property at 24 Drew Lane, were granted variances allowing an automatic cover for a swimming pool and two stone benches that fall within the required setback from the 15-foot ocean-dune contour line, where land disturbance is prohibited within 150 feet of the southerly edge of beach grass. The board also allowed design changes to previously approved accessory structures and the replacement of a slate patio. Mr. Zaslav, who had attended meetings at which his application was heard, is the president and chief executive officer of Discovery Communications.

The board granted O. Wayne Isom and Patricia Isom of 9 Drew Lane variances to reconstruct a garage, with alterations, within required setbacks, allow a toilet on the first floor of the garage, legalize an air-conditioning unit that falls within setbacks, and to allow the floor area of accessory buildings to remain 219 square feet greater than the maximum permitted.

Jeffrey Colle, a designer and builder of luxury houses, was granted wetlands permits to allow removal of phragmites by hand cutting and hand digging and to revegetate an area adjacent to wetlands at 81 North Briar Patch Road.

The board granted Brian Stanis variances to construct a house at 17 Pleasant Lane with a floor area of 2,350 square feet where the maximum permitted is 1,829 square feet, and to reconstruct a 372-square-foot garage within the side-yard setback and where the maximum permitted is 365 square feet. Mr. Stanis also was granted variances allowing two air-conditioner condensers within the front-yard setback and to construct a swimming pool within the rear-yard setback.

Frank Trentacoste, the proprietor of Bhumi Farms in East Hampton, was granted a variance to legalize approximately 1,215 linear feet of eight-foot-high deer fencing at 56 Egypt Close, where the village prohibits fencing higher than six feet. An easement requires the use of the property to be agriculture, and Mr. Trentacoste had testified that fencing conforming to the code does not deter deer. Two neighbors had submitted letters of support.

The board granted Paul Stallings of 10 Lockwood Lane a wetlands permit and variances to legalize landscaping and to clear vegetation and revegetate an area within 125 feet of the edge of wetlands. He also will be allowed to construct a pergola and make alterations to his residence, including construction of a second story, all within the wetlands setback. The permit and variances were granted on the condition that no pesticides or fertilizers are to be used within the revegetated areas and no irrigation installed.

Daniel Chung and Alexandra Alger of 10 Jones Creek Road were granted a wetlands permit and variances to permit construction of a detached garage in the front yard, which is prohibited by the zoning code, to permit the garage and a retaining wall within required setbacks, to legalize prior land clearing and landscaping within 125 feet of wetlands, and to allow a slate patio and walkway to remain within required wetlands setbacks.

The board granted Lawrence Flinn a variance to permit construction of a playing court at 4 Maidstone Lane, where there is no main structure. Mr. Flinn owns an adjacent parcel that has a residence and accessory structures, however.

Thomas Vince and Jess Lupinacci were granted variances for 22 Dayton Lane, allowing 428 square feet more coverage than the code permits. They also were granted permission to legalize a shed addition within the side and rear-yard setbacks and to construct an addition to the house within the side-yard setback.