Editorial: In the Shallow End

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For years, residents have petitioned the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals for relief from the zoning code to build swimming pools on lots that, in many cases, are quite small. While it is understandable that having a pool is a nice luxury, and certainly increases the value of one’s property, it by no means is a hardship on a property owner to not have one, particularly when we live in a waterfront community with fairly easy access to local bays and oceans.

This is why we believe the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals is on the right track when it comes to denying variances for small lots like the one found on 5 Jefferson Street — located directly behind the John Jermain Memorial Library and behind the Morpurgo house on Union Street.

This property contains a house that is a contributing structure to the village historic district. That house also happens to be on a lot that is just 4,151 square feet — small enough that rebuilding the existing house will not allow for the addition of an amenity like a garage.

Have there been pools approved on constrained lots in Sag Harbor? Yes. And that has been to the detriment of neighbors, who have had to deal with the increase in runoff as a result of having less permeable surfaces for rainwater to filter through. Also, they have had to put up with the reality of having a swimming pool, and the noise that accompanies their use, in such close proximity to their own homes.

Ultimately, the zoning code contains the laws by which the village is trusted to guide its future development — not a set of rules to be bent or broken without true evidence of hardship. And true hardship does not include the ability to resell a house for more money than you paid for it or even the luxury of having a private pool.

The key word here is “luxury.” In most places around the world that is what owning a swimming pool is. And in a place like Sag Harbor, surrounded by multiple places to enjoy swimming in natural waters, it also seems an unnecessary one.

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