Harbor Committee Continues To Resist Pool Near Ligonee Brook

Ligonee Brook wetlands with the back of the 36 Fordham Street property at right. Peter Boody photo

Continued resistance from Harbor Committee members and another appearance by opposing attorney Jeffrey Bragman — who has urged the board to exercise its power to defend wetlands and deny the application — once again delayed action for another month on a two-year-old application for a wetlands permit to build a 14-by-30-foot ozone-conditioned swimming pool less than 56 feet from wetlands overlooking Ligoneee Brook at 36 Fordham Street in Sag Harbor.

The wetlands code calls for a 75-foot boundary and a 50-foot vegetative buffer. The applicant is 36 Fordham LLC, the principal of which is attorney Bruce Bronster. The house is listed for sale. The board environmental consultant, Charles Voorhees, has said the proposal poses no threat to  Ligonee Creek or to the Long Pond Greenbelt environment with which it’s connected. He has recommended granting the permit

With Harbor Committee Chair Mary Ann Eddy already having declared in February she had “this gut feeling this just shouldn’t have a pool on it,” other board members registered their resistance at the board’s monthly meeting on Monday, March 11, even after the applicant’s attorney, Brian DeSesa, listed the changes, concessions and improvements his client had proposed to sweeten the deal.

They included reducing the size of the pool from 20 by 40 feet; removing a shed and patio from the northern property line; installing drywells to contain runoff from the pool and roof of the house; replacing 2,511 square feet of lawn with native vegetation; covenants and restrictions to restrict 24,389 square feet of the .84-acre parcel to native vegetation; and an offer made in February to accept the installation of an “innovative-alternative” nitrogen-reducing septic system as a condition of the wetlands permit.

That offer appears to have been rendered moot by the Sag Harbor Village Board’s vote the following night to require I/A systems on residential properties whenever their septic system needs to be updated or replaced.

But board member Will Sharp questioned why a smaller lap pool close to the house wouldn’t suffice. Board member Caroline J. Fell worried about the high groundwater level on the property, which she said she had visited three to six times in the past two months and always found spongy.

When Mr. Sharp asked if the ground could support the pool structure, Mr. DeSesa said, “If we can’t build what we proposed, we’d have to come back to you” with revised plans.

“Ligonee Brook is gurgling away now,” said Ms. Eddy, “and last year there was nothing flowing in it.”

Mr. Voorhis, who said the brook is a “manifestation of groundwater,” noted that the last groundwater test hole was sunk in November of 2017, and told the board it would make sense to ask for another test hole to be dug.

Ms. Fell agreed. “I think another test hole should be dug. The “squishiness” of the property gave it “the constancy more of a wetland attribute and it concerns me. The village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan “throughout refers to protecting this brook.”

Mr. Bragman, whose first appearance in December seemed to head off the board just as it appeared poised to grant a permit, said on Monday the applicant was required by the wetlands code to explore practicable alternatives that would have less environmental impact.

“He’s looking for a water amenity,” Mr. Bragman said. “A lap pool in front” could work perfectly on the property, he said, and the board “should require him to show that.

“There are readily apparent alternatives,” Mr. Bragman added, “and he’s not required to get relief.”

Larry Penny, the former Natural Resources director of the Town of East Hampton, noted that Ligonee Brook is sometimes tidal. He said Google map photographs show only two pools on the entire Ligonee system “And they’re set way back.”

Board member John Parker noted “we have approved pools near wetlands,” and member Herb Sambol added that a reconstruction with a pool at 62 John Street the board had just informally agreed to approve “was closer to wetlands than this on one is.”

But “there are no problems on this property, like grass down to the water,” said board chair Ms. Eddy, that can be corrected in exchange for a wetlands setback waiver. “That’s part of the mix and this property doesn’t have any of these problems.” She said the lot at 62 John Street, being all lawn, lacked any kind of buffer and vegetated area.

“This is sloped, squishy wetlands,” added Ms. Fell.

The board agreed to table the application until its next meeting on April 8.

In other action on Monday, the Harbor Committee granted a wetlands permit for Jeffrey Rosenberg’s proposed redevelopment of waterfront property at 62 John Street. An existing one-story bungalow will be torn down to be replaced by a new two-story house covers 1,700 square feet with a swimming pool, spa, terrace and dock.

It also agreed to ask Mr. Voorhis to prepare a draft decision to be presented to the board in April granting the application of developer Jay Bialsky’s JAB 2 West Water Street to demolish the existing former motel on the property and erect three condo units with a total of 27,740 square feet in gross floor area; create partial underground parking for 12 vehicles; install storm-water leaching galleys and a vegetated stormwater bio-retention system, build a private six-slip docking facility; and build a bulkhead and adjacent boardwalk along the shoreline.