With the possibility of subdividing his long but half-empty lot now off the table, Ralph Riciti returned to Sag Harbor Village’s Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board in November with a new plan for enlarging his modest 19th century house at 25 Liberty Street.
His goal is to achieve the maximum living space its lot size allows for — about 3,300 square feet of gross floor area — but in a way that won’t overwhelm the original structure or seem out of character with other houses in the historic district.
“I think we’ve made some progress,” said Riciti, referring to himself and his architect, Eric Peterson, whose plans for an imposing addition extending north along Liberty Street ran into firm opposition from the board as too massive when they presented them in August and October.
“Absolutely you’ve made some progress,” replied the board’s chair, Jeanne Kane.
“I think the direction here is very good,” agreed the board’s historic preservation consultant, Zachary Studenroth. He noted that “the biggest issue” of the previous plan was “how long the addition was,” and the latest plan shortens the addition from the original proposal by roughly 30 feet.
The new plan, which Riciti outlined during another informal discussion at a November 18 Zoom session of the panel, makes use of wasted second-story space in the existing structure by altering the roof and calls for a small one-story addition on the west side, or rear, of the house, and a two-story bump-out on the south side.
With the additional living area provided by those spaces, he was able to eliminate a one-story “connector” element and reduce the length of the problematic addition on the north side of the house even further than he had after previous discussions with the panel.
Riciti, who has told the board he has owned the property for three years, looking for a way to redevelop to its full potential — and hopes not to spend a fourth year at it — piqued the board’s interest last month when he disclosed that he had asked the Planning Board in 2019 to subdivide the long, narrow property. Located at the corner of Liberty and Hempstead streets, it covers 20,000 square feet, the minimum that zoning requires. With it divided into two quarter-acre parcels, he could build another house on the newly created lot and leave the house at 25 Liberty as is, or closer to it.
The planners rebuffed him, and he withdrew the application.
“Wow! Wow!” exclaimed HPARB member Steve Williams at the idea at the time, adding that the neighbors would favor that alternative. Panel member Judith Long called it the “obvious answer to the problem.”
But at the start of the latest discussion on November 18, Kane explained that she and Williams had reviewed the Building Department’s files and looked into the case with “our lawyer,” only to find that subdividing the property “is not an option for you,” because the lot is too small and the rules don’t allow for it.
Unlike the previous versions, Riciti’s new plan would not meet all zoning requirements, because the one-story addition on the west side of the house would intrude into the required 30-foot setback.
That means he would have to file an application for a variance with the Zoning Board of Appeals, which he’s already asked to consider another option: designating the existing house an “accessory” structure so a new, larger house could be built facing Hempstead Street.
So far, that application has never come up on the ZBA’s meeting agenda.
Riciti said at the close of the discussion that he wanted to have one more informal meeting with the HPARB members to present finalized plans and obtain their blessing before going to the ZBA and eventually, with variance in hand, returning to the HPARB with a formal application for a certificate of appropriateness.