Historic House Connection Plan Advances at ZBA

The houses at 36 and 40 Hamilton Street in Sag Harbor that are proposed to be merged into one residence, photographed on February 23, 2018. Michael Heller photo

An application to connect a pair of neighboring houses on Hamilton Street found favor with the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals during the board’s February 20 meeting.

The houses, 36 and 40 Hamilton Street, are listed as contributing houses in the village’s historic survey. The survey describes both as Folk Victorian, each with a two-story, three-bay frame composition, constructed by a builder named Bates as a “a simple worker’s or vacation house.” They do differ somewhat, with one having a front porch with turned posts and the other a modern mantelshelf entrance.

The proposal is to formally merge the two lots, build a 125-square-foot connection between the two houses, remove the kitchen from one of them, replace one septic system with a brand-new system and abandon the other septic system. Plans also include a 320-square-foot brick patio. It would become one legal, single-family house that would cover about 34 percent of the lot once the two are combined.

A Hamilton Street neighbor, Steve Mitchell, aired his worries.

“My concern is about merging properties and connecting houses. Our village is losing a lot of its small-town integrity,” he said.

Attorney Brian DeSesa, filling in for the attorney who usually represents owner Christopher Knoess, responded by saying the owner “wants to keep the streetscape.”

“We’re preserving two historic structures and the benefit to the village is that it appears to be two historic structures,” Mr. DeSesa said.

The addition and patio required a total of five variances, including rear and side yard setbacks, building coverage and total lot coverage. In a straw poll, the four board members present, including board chairman Tim McGuire, members Scott Baker and Robert Plumb and new alternate member Ted Pettus, agreed they would most likely grant the variances after consulting their attorney.

Mr. McGuire said he thought the connection wouldn’t be very noticeable. “We’ll write in the record that one of the reasons we might be affirmative for it is it’s a very small amount of square footage,” he said.

Mr. Pettus said he was in favor after receiving clarification that the resulting combined house would not be able to be legally rented to multiple families.

With a written ZBA decision expected within 62 days from the February 20 meeting, Mr. Knoess’s application must also go before the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review. During an informal review of the project on December 14, 2017, some members of the BHPAR — but not all of them — offered comments such as “quirky,” “interesting,” “benign” and “unique” to describe Mr. Knoess’s plan to connect the houses.