East Hampton Town Looks to Landmark Homes Outside of Historic Districts

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The East Hampton Town Board will hold a public hearing in October allowing the town to designate historic landmarks outside of historic districts, offering property owners the ability to construct a second home on a single lot in an effort to incentivize historic preservation.

The board will also consider a local law that designates over a dozen 18th and 19th century residences throughout the town as historic landmarks, ensuring they cannot be demolished or substantially altered in the near future.

“This local law is designed to impact those historic structures located outside of historic districts,” town attorney Michael Sendlenski explained during Tuesday’s work session, noting those structures do not currently benefit from the same protection as those within designated historic districts. In return, property owners with parcels that contain these buildings would be allowed, under the legislation, to build a secondary structure on the same lot. Currently, only affordable apartments are legally allowed as a secondary living quarters on a single property, noted Mr. Sendlenski.

That said, the gross floor area restriction on a property cannot be exceeded under the legislation — meaning both residences must fall under the allowed GFA. An accessory structure would only be allowed four bedrooms, and could only meet 40 percent or the property’s allowed GFA, or 3,500 square feet, whichever is less. Whether or not the historic structure becomes the primary or accessory structure on a property would depend on the size of the original building, added Mr. Sendlenski. “So if a historic structure is greater than 3,500 square feet or 40 percent of the allowable gross floor area, or has four bedrooms, the new structure would have to be accessory to the old structure on a property,” he said.

“Obviously, the great benefit here is you are allowed a separate second dwelling unit on a property which is not something allowed in the code except for accessible, affordable apartments,” added Mr. Sendlenski.

Responding to a question from Councilman Fred Overton, Mr. Sendlenski explained if a historic structure is destroyed in a fire, or hurricane, for example, an architect and engineer would assess whether or not it could be restored by the property owner and make a recommendation to the town board.

“The goal of this is to preserve that historic building — that is the goal, that is why this is being set up,” noted Supervisor Larry Cantwell. “The town will play some role in determining whether or not a structure can be rebuilt.”

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