Editorial: What’s the Point?

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As a darling of residential real estate development, Sag Harbor Village continues to see a slew of applications in its building department for the expansion of small houses on tiny, narrow lots. Sag Harbor’s popularity comes as little surprise to those who know and love this community, but its rapidly changing streetscapes can be concerning, especially if the end result is the creation of a community that no longer looks and feels like Sag Harbor.

We were pleased to see the village’s zoning board of appeals push pause on two applications this week that demanded extreme relief from the village code. One proposal, for a residence on Carver Street, seeks to grow the size of the existing home by just 199 square feet. The end result would not be overly massive compared to some homes that have been developed on rural streets across the South Fork, but the request is for “probably the largest pyramid variance that would have been granted since I have been on the board,” according to ZBA chairman Tim McGuire. The reason? The goal of creating farmhouse-style architecture on a narrow lot in the Chatfield’s Hill neighborhood.

A second round of variances — a total of 12 requested – was for additions, including a patio and swimming pool, on a Vickers Street property. The end result would transform a 1,269-square-foot home into just under 2,100 square feet — again, not overly massive — but balancing community character and true hardship with challenges like fitting a pool somewhere in this property’s three front yards may prove tricky.

The point of zoning codes is to keep out-of-scale development in check. Making a house extremely tall to maximize space at potential detriment to the neighborhood streetscape is not good cause for a variance. Whether or not one can have a swimming pool, in particular, while often the subject of variance requests, is not an actual hardship, especially given our proximity to bays and oceans.

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