Could This Be the End of Ocean Views?

Nothing less than “an incredible impact” on iconic oceanfront residences is at stake in a hearing before the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals, board members were told as they considered an application for a third time on Friday. But a largely skeptical board called that characterization extreme, and with an environmental report from a consultant to the village still pending, the application will be considered for a fourth time next month. 

Norman and Helene Stark want to demolish the approximately 4,600-square-foot house that is situated in a coastal erosion hazard area at 33 Lily Pond Lane and replace it with a substantially larger house — as well as a swimming pool and hot tub, a patio, retaining walls, staircases, and dry wells — to be sited landward, though still requiring multiple variances from the zoning code meant to preserve ocean dunes. 

In the first two meetings at which the Starks’ application was considered, Leonard Ackerman, an attorney, and a team of consultants asserted that the proposals pose no threat to the dune. At the second meeting, the applicants presented a pared-down plan that included removal of an existing koi pond and abandonment of a planned deck addition, a trellis, part of a brick patio, a walkway, and a play set. A tennis court, which encroaches on a setback, is to be reduced by 10 feet. The plans were also modified to move the house and new swimming pool farther landward. The Starks still seek variances to legalize a 77-square-foot addition to the existing residence, a storage shed, an addition to a tennis house, steps built into the landscape, and a generator. 

The house’s demolition and reconstruction would trigger mandatory compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations pertaining to flood-hazard areas, requiring the new structure to be elevated. Construction plans call for 66 pilings to be driven into the earth, which board members worried on Friday would disturb the dune. 

Mr. Ackerman, quoting a memo to the board from Billy Hajek, a village planner, referred to “the ‘gorilla in the room,’ the view issue,” a reference to the unique view enjoyed by oceanfront property owners. Mr. Hajek, he said, was suggesting that FEMA “should dictate . . . further retreat to the north, which is another way of saying there should be a non-ocean view for this property.” 

In fact, he said, all oceanfront construction, including reconstruction resulting from extreme weather, flooding, or fire damage, would result in loss of an ocean view should the zoning board deny the application before them. The board, he said, has “a tremendous amount of power to dictate, and by precedent to both set not only the tone but to set the limits with respect to development of properties. I caution you that, if this case goes the route that it would appear to be going,” more than 18 iconic properties “have the capacity to be moved and shifted, by determination here, to the north, all of which would lose their ocean view.” 

Lys Marigold, the board’s chairwoman, “has very eloquently stated that it is her task and desire to maintain and preserve the iconic nature of homes in East Hampton,” Mr. Ackerman said. But “the elimination of those homes by virtue of not being able to be reconstructed under your interpretation, or under our code, would have an incredible impact on the preservation of the homes in East Hampton.” 

Craig Humphrey, of the board, called the statement extreme, and Ms. Marigold repeated his appraisal. “Nobody is saying you can’t have some kind of construction there,” the chairwoman said, but “there’s not one time that we have ever allowed somebody to raise a house, move it, expand it, and move a swimming pool on the oceanside.” Previous cases Mr. Ackerman cited had unique circumstances, she said, such as a rotting foundation that left a house in danger of collapse, and in all cases property owners were compelled to implement substantial mitigation measures in exchange for permitting or variance relief.

The only house the board allowed to be completely rebuilt, she said, was that owned by Peter Morton, a co-founder of the Hard Rock Cafe chain, whose West End Road house was destroyed by fire in 2015, and even that application contained a variance request that was denied. “There is no precedent here,” she said. 

The existing house, Ms. Marigold said, “protected the dune, in a way. . . . This new location of the house, even though it’s moving by inches landward . . . is actually digging out the backside of the dune. It’s on 66 pilings. . . . I know from digging sandcastles that when you disturb sand it comes rushing back in.” Driving 66 pilings into the earth would “reverberate through the entire village,” she said. “I don’t think that’s good for the dune.” Ray Harden, the board’s vice chairman and a builder, agreed that pile driving “certainly affects the area around it.” 

Mr. Ackerman continued to press his point. “If you do not allow any of these . . . landowners to rebuild their homes under an adverse determination in this ruling, you realize that every one . . . of these 18 families will not be able to reconstruct their home with an ocean view, because you would be setting a precedent.” 

“That’s not true,” Ms. Marigold said. “We have let them reconstruct or add on, on the landward side. . . . Each case is individual.”

The Starks’ extended family has grown substantially, Mr. Ackerman said. “The alternatives to this application are that we would have to come back with a renovation and expansion of this existing house. What we’re doing is retreating, which we think, based upon the science that we have, is less detrimental to the dune. . . . You would prefer us to do what?”

“The general purpose of the coastal erosion hazard area regulation is to protect natural protective features such as beaches, bluffs, and primary dunes,” Ms. Marigold said, reading a passage. “ ‘The construction of new buildings and structures within the coastal erosion hazard area and on the primary dune is a prohibited activity.’ I take that seriously, ‘prohibited.’ ”

Larry Hillel and Mr. Humphrey indicated opposition to the application. “My feeling,” Mr. Hillel said, “is when you’re starting anew, you really want to do it within the regulations. . . . This is a completely new house with a tremendous amount of variances.” Mr. Humphrey echoed the chairwoman. “ ‘Prohibited’ means no,” he said. 

The environmental report from the village’s consultant should be distributed prior to board’s April 12 meeting, Ms. Marigold said, when the hearing will resume. 

In other news from the meeting, the board announced six determinations. Barry Rosenstein, who purchased 60, 62, and 64 Further Lane in 2014 for $137 million, was granted a variance to allow solar panels to be installed at 64 Further Lane, where there is no principal building. The panels are to serve the house on the adjacent lot. 

The board granted trusts in the name of John Trousdale and Mary Margaret Trousdale variances to raze a 294-square-foot building containing a bedroom and construct a 325-square-foot building with sleeping facilities at 3 La Forest Lane, where a principal residence stands, and to allow the principal floor area to increase to 9,788 square feet, where 9,757 square feet exist now and the maximum permitted under current code is 8,368 square feet. The relief was granted on the conditions that the new structure will never be rented to, or occupied by, anyone other than guests, family members, or household staff; there will be no cooking in it, and a low-nitrogen septic system is installed for it as well as the principal dwelling. 

Robert Zecher, contract vendee for property owned by Edwin Sherrill Jr., was granted a wetlands permit and variances to allow installation of a pea gravel driveway, gate columns, a gate, dry wells, and landscaping, all within required wetlands setbacks at 68 Egypt Lane. 

Nedenia Rumbough and Donald Handelman were granted a variance to legalize 442 square feet of coverage more than is legally permitted at 55 Egypt Close. Mr. Handelman and Stanley Rumbough were granted a variance to legalize a walkway falling within the rear-yard setback at 3 West Dune Lane. 

The board granted Kathryn Krone variances to allow an air-conditioning condenser and patio pavers to remain within required setbacks, and to permit 313 square feet of coverage more than is legally permitted at 18 Huntting Lane.