A Change in Tune for Billy Joel’s Proposed House Renovations

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Musician Billy Joel, center, listens to his attorney present preliminary, updated building plans for renovations to his Bay Street house last Thursday, April 26. Christine Sampson photo

Following more than two years of village regulatory board appearances and back-and-forth design changes, representatives of musician Billy Joel last Thursday unveiled a new, scaled-back proposal for his Bay Street house before Sag Harbor’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review.

A controversial element of the proposal at one point included rotating the portion of the house that faces Rector Street so that it would have aligned instead with Bay Street. That has now been cut from the plan. A two-story addition connecting the two parts of the house has been moved back from the street and lowered. What was going to be a full addition onto the front of the house is now designed as a screened-in porch.

The proposed lifting of the house has also been altered such that the overall height of the house would be about 30 feet, instead of 34 feet, which neighbors had strongly opposed. The height of houses in Sag Harbor is capped at 35 feet.

The design changes were presented during an informal discussion session — Mr. Joel’s fourth since March 2016 — when the board’s feedback was considerably more favorable than it had been in the past.

“The last time, they didn’t really like it,” said attorney Jon Tarbet, who represents Mr. Joel. “It’s a pretty big redesign. It was not easy to do for the architect, so we wanted to make sure we were going down the right road before we submitted the full materials and models.”

The Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals had also rejected a variance the previous iteration of the project would have needed to proceed. A neighbor had also challenged the village building inspector’s interpretation of the code that would have allowed the property owner to combine multiple allowed uses in a village business district structure without the need to go before the ZBA or other regulatory boards if those uses do not exceed the total floor area allowed in the existing certificate of occupancy. The village’s Board of Trustees has since eliminated that part of village zoning code and the neighbor who initially brought up the challenge never followed up with it, according to Mr. Tarbet.

“The house will be compliant with the code the way it stands now,” he said. “We intend to design it so we don’t need any variances. It’s a little premature, but we don’t think we’ll need the zoning board.”

On Wednesday, Myrna Davis, a nearby Rector Street resident, said much is still unknown.

“The effort to take into consideration some of the [board] guidelines is appreciated, but it was not made clear what is going to happen to the land itself if the old house facing Rector Street is raised four feet,” she said. “How will the massing appear from our house and neighboring structures along Rector, Bay and Rysam streets, and from Marine Park and boats on the water? A good scale model is needed to begin assessing concerns.”

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