Pergola for 12, Please

Editorial

Pergolas and other landscape appurtenances were the objects of contention at a Sagaponack Village Board meeting last week, but the real issue was the size of houses. The village trustees’ idea that these garden follies be counted against the total allowable floor area amounted to fighting words. If a trellis, for example, was included in the square-footage calculations, the main structure would have to be that much smaller.

The board’s pergola proposal was anathema to those who have made an industry out of selling spec houses in the charming village. There seem to be Wall Streeters around still willing to invest in big houses, and the bigger they are the more money there is to be made. One developer went so far as to say the concept was “totalitarian.” Well, maybe.

Having heard from others in the trades who opposed including lawn features in square-footage limits, the village board eased up a bit. To be considered at a Dec. 3 hearing will be a proposal spotting property owners one pergola of up to 300 square feet per lot without their counting against house dimensions. This seems more than fair; one board member said she had a pergola half that size, which was big enough for a dining table for 12.

Also to be reviewed at the hearing will be lifting a restriction on other accessory structures, such as potting sheds and pool houses, which limits their size to no more than 30 percent of the main house. This sounds like a risky give-away, even on large parcels. A better path would be to leave the rule on the books and let exemptions be handled on a case-by-case basis by the village zoning board.

Sagaponack was not put on this earth to serve the interests of those who want to own hyper-crenellated McMansions or those who cover its fertile soil to supply them at maximum profit. The village trustees are right to consider reasonable limits on the excesses of the few who would prefer no fetters at all.