Development Likely for Vacant Lots on Marsden Street

Five vacant lots on Marsden Street, parts of which are pictured here, are slated for possible development. Christine Sampson photo

Changes in the federal tax structure that eliminated deductions for state and local property taxes have begun to trickle down to Sag Harbor, where a builder who has owned five vacant lots on Marsden Street for many years has cited taxes as the reason for his decision to finally develop them.

Pat Trunzo III told the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review last Thursday he intends to build five luxury homes, complete with pools, pool houses and detached garages, on those lots in the near future.

Mr. Trunzo appeared with his architect, Namita Modi, at Thursday’s meeting for a preliminary discussion of the plans. He told the board the properties have been in his family’s possession for quite some time, having been created via subdivision through Sag Harbor Planning Board approval in 1985. But due to the federal government’s changes in the tax structure, Mr. Trunzo said, it’s time to move forward with development.

“Since they’ve taken away the state and local deduction, it’s no longer possible to just hold on,” he said.

Mr. Trunzo told the board the lots — which are dominated by woods and brush and feature some dramatic grade changes — are some of the largest vacant properties in Sag Harbor, at between three-quarters of an acre to just under one acre. On lots that big, Ms. Modi said, the houses could theoretically range from 5,800 square feet to 7,000 square feet according to the village’s gross floor area (GFA) rules, which tie the sizes of houses to their lot sizes. No designs have been finalized.

“Right off the bat, you’re going to have trouble with the village as a whole with houses of this size in that area,” board chairman Anthony Brandt said. “I’m also told you’re going to break the heart of some of the high school students who go in there to smoke dope.”

Elizabeth Vail, the board’s attorney, chimed in to say, “That’s a good thing.”

Mr. Trunzo said his intention and hope are to “build houses that are appropriate to the lots.”

“Especially considering what they’re taxing me at, I’m not really going to be able to build modest houses,” he said. “…The village has spoken as to what it feels the square footage of houses should be. We are, in fact, under those limits.”

The board advised Mr. Trunzo and Ms. Modi to attempt to mask the mass of the houses in creative ways while still achieving their desired sizes.

The conversation shifted to aesthetics, with Ms. Modi pitching replica Greek revival and Georgian designs as examples of what could be built. They were not well-received.

“The idea is we don’t like replicas,” Mr. Brandt said.

“It starts beginning to look like Disney World instead of a place to live,” said board alternate Judith Long.

Ms. Modi also said Mr. Trunzo is willing to build sidewalks with granite curbstones and add trees along the street. Mr. Trunzo said he has already had some positive conversations with the village about paying for these improvements himself.

No decisions were made on the matter, as it was not considered a formal application before the board.

Also on the board’s discussion agenda last Thursday was 25 Liberty Street, an approximately 1,450-square-foot house on an L-shaped property that also fronts on Hempstead Street. The plan is to “rehabilitate the [historic] house and turn it into an accessory structure” such as an artist’s studio or workshop, then build a new, main residence on the Hempstead Street side, according to attorney Brian DeSesa, representing 25 Liberty LLC, the property owner.

Sag Harbor’s historic survey lists it as being built in 1890, but Mr. Brian DeSesa said a county map exists showing the house could have been built as early as 1873. An old outhouse, also listed as a contributing structure according to Sag Harbor’s survey, is also on the lot.

The proposed “rehabilitation,” involving the removal of more recent additions to the house to reduce it to approximately 600 square feet, struck a sour note with the board.

“The additions have aged to a point where they are contributing as well,” Mr. Brandt said. “We certainly would never allow the demolition of it. Stripping it down so radically is not something I could see us approving.”

The board agreed to visit the property with its historic preservation consultant, Zach Studenroth, who was absent from Thursday’s meeting.