Joel Renovation on Bay Street Finds Favor Ahead of Public Hearing

A rendering of musician Billy Joel's proposed house at 20 Bay Street. Image by JC Construction Management Corp.

Representatives of musician Billy Joel on Thursday presented plans for the renovation of his house at 20 Bay Street that are more in tune with what the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review usually likes to hear, though one neighbor’s opposition made for a familiar chorus.

After more than two years, including an appearance before the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals in which Mr. Joel failed to earn variances that would have advanced a more complex renovation — the project will culminate in a public hearing in front of the BHPARB on August 23. It will be at 5 p.m. in the municipal building meeting room.

But on Thursday, some board members and the board’s historic preservation consultant said the project has come a long way.

While the plan still involves raising the house by four feet, up to 30 feet — attorney Jon Tarbet explained this is necessary to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, and is still below the village’s cap on the height of a residence — it no longer involves rotating part of the house. A new structure connecting the two parts of the house has been set back further and lowered in height, and what was formerly a full front addition is now a screened-in porch.

Most recently the plans now show the window design on the north side has been simplified on the first floor, from four to two, which satisfied a previous complaint of the board. Architect Jeffrey Colle even said they will be bringing back historic architectural details that had been removed over the years.

“I like the plans a lot. I think they’ve charmed it up,” board member Dean Gomolka said during Thursday’s meeting. He asked Mr. Joel to seek input from an arborist to help in preserve the tree on Bay Street in front of the home.

Mr. Colle said he would present a plan to do so at the public hearing in August. “We’ve already taken into consideration the tree,” he said. “We can bridge the root system … and not bother the tree.”

Board chairman Anthony Brandt said Monday, “They have come a-ways. The building no longer looks quite as massive as it did” when the proposal was to rotate the house’s Rector Street section to front on Bay Street. “It’s an improvement. I’m not going to say much more than that because it’s got to go the public and I have no idea how the public is going to react.”

Neighbor Paul Davis, who has objected to previous iterations of Mr. Joel’s plans, continued to make the case that the project will negatively impact his house.

“It’s going to be much higher and wider. It’s taking the airspace away,” said Mr. Davis, who also said he thought “there’s only a whisper of the old building left there from what I can see.”

Consultant Zach Studenroth said renovations over the years has caused much of the historic integrity of the house to be lost. “The point being is it’s not the responsibility of the present owner to reclaim what’s already been lost,” he said.

The board also set an August 23 public hearing for a renovation project at 30 Archibald Way, which would expand the existing house owned by Thomas DiPrete and Katherine Ewing up to 3,452 square feet. Building projects over 3,000 square feet require public hearings, according to village code.