Garden Street Resident Granted Controversial Front-Yard Pool

The residence at 59 Garden Street in Sag Harbor, photographed on Wednesday, 10/18/17. Michael Heller photo

Garden Street resident William Egan will have his front-yard swimming pool, a New York State Supreme Court judge has ruled, despite a 2018 Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals decision to deny variances that would have allowed the pool to be built.

The ZBA on Tuesday agreed in a straw poll to grant two variances that will allow Mr. Egan to have a pool, now in a modified location and with other stipulations that differ from his original pitch to the zoning board. The board’s straw poll was 3-0, with chairman Robby Stein and member Susan Mead absent, and was taken at the end of its meeting on Tuesday, after all of the audience members had already left. ZBA attorney Denise Schoen later explained the board had an April 8 deadline to act, and waiting until its next meeting would have meant missing the deadline. She said during the early part of the meeting the board postponed the discussion to a work session “to be determined,” then decided to hold that work session immediately following the regular meeting, which it can legally do, and which other area zoning boards often do as well.

Because Mr. Egan’s property sits at the corner of three streets, he technically has three front yards and no back yard in which to build a pool. In February of 2018, the ZBA decided in a straw poll to deny variances because its members thought the proposed pool would be out of character with the neighborhood, which is in the historic district. The board also stated the pool would negatively impact the surrounding environment, which is prone to flooding.

Mr. Egan subsequently filed suit against the board, saying its decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” and also named the village in a separate complaint that claimed it failed to comply with his Freedom of Information Law request for certain documents.

Judge Joseph C. Pastoressa agreed with Mr. Egan and overturned the ZBA’s decision in an order dated March 7. According to court documents, Judge Pastoressa wrote, “…the court hereby finds and determines that the ZBA violated” its standards for making decisions when it denied Mr. Egan’s variances in 2018.

“We are pleased to confirm that pursuant to Judge Pastoressa’s order, my client will be receiving a permit to build a swimming pool,” attorney Alex Kriegsman said Wednesday on Mr. Egan’s behalf. “It is unfortunate that a lawsuit was necessary to accomplish this and we look forward to putting this matter behind us.”

The three board members present on Tuesday, Scott Baker, Robert Plumb and Hamil Willoughby, all voted yes in the straw poll on Ms. Schoen’s recommendation despite stating they still had some reservations about the pool construction. A formal decision will be approved at the board’s April 16 meeting.

Earlier in the meeting on Tuesday, several residents pleaded with the ZBA to again deny variances. One variance would allow a pool and patio to be built in a front yard, where accessory structures are prohibited by village code and a second variance was needed for front yard setback to allow the pool and patio to be situated less than 35 feet from Spring Street, as demanded by village code.

Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, the documentary filmmakers who live across the street from Mr. Egan, told the board they believe the proposed pool will exacerbate the flooding problems in the neighborhood.

“Our septic system is so compromised by it that we cannot flush our toilet a lot of the time,” Ms. Hegedus said. “Our options are very limited right now. We have a very small property. There’s almost nothing that we can do because of what already exists on that property. For him to add a pool, it’s only going to cause more damage to us.”

Lucie Chabrol, who lives nearby on Howard Street, said her basement floods so much that she can’t use it.

“My basement had no water when we bought house in 1989,” Ms. Chabrol said. “I find it extremely inconsiderate to give a variance when the impact on the neighborhood is so high.”

Ms. Schoen explained Judge Pastoressa “didn’t believe there was a direct enough link between this pool and the neighborhood flooding problems.”

According to Anne Leahey, an attorney who represented the village in Mr. Egan’s lawsuits, the village has agreed it will not appeal the case, but the judge said the decision cannot be used as a precedent if other similar cases came up.

Mr. Egan’s pool is smaller than initially proposed, at 15 feet by 35 feet, and is actually smaller than what Judge Pastoressa was willing to allow, which was 19 feet by 35 feet. Mr. Egan has also agreed to move its location so that it is perpendicular to Spring Street rather than Howard Street. He has also agreed to upgrade the capacity of drainage units to be added to his property.

“There’s a report from an engineer that says this will be a net benefit to the neighborhood,” Mr. Kriegsman said Tuesday.

Hampton Street Office Complex Variances Approved

After receiving corrected information on total lot coverage and the amount of vegetation to be planted on the property, the Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday formally granted two variances for Stephen Loeffler’s office complex at 152 Hampton Street.

The board allowed 35.8 percent total lot coverage, where 25 percent is normally the maximum allowed. The board also allowed 44.3 percent of natural or fertilized vegetation, where 50 percent is normally the minimum.

The application also includes several permeable walkways and other surfaces that will allow the absorption of water on the property.

This article has been updated from a previous version that inadvertently excluded mention of the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals work session and April 8 court deadline.