Panel Set To Approve Burke St. Renovation Despite Long List of Wrongs from Applicant

It took Clifton Murdock, with partner Paris Fields at right, an hour to read a statement at the July 25 meeting of the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board. Peter Boody photo

“Clifton, we cannot read this whole thing,” Dean Gomolka, chairman of the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board, told Clifton Murdock on July 25 as the aggrieved partner with Paris Fields in F&M Star Inc. began reading a statement about the wrongs he believes the pair has faced as the board and its historical consultant, Zachary Studenroth, reviewed their plans to renovate a 19thcentury house at 11 Burke Street.

“This is like minutes,” Mr. Gomolka said as Mr. Murdock continued to read.

“You don’t have to read it into the record,” the board’s attorney, Elizabeth Vail, told Mr. Murdock, noting the document was already part of the record.

But Mr. Murdock vehemently insisted, Ms. Vail finally advised Mr. Gomolka to let him continue, and two hours later — with half that time spent on Mr. Murdock’s marathon reading — the board appeared almost ready to grant a certificate of appropriateness for the planned renovation of what Mr. Fields has said was once the home of Sag Harbor’s whaleboat builder William Cooper and the first Catholic meeting house in the region.

In his statement, which included a reference to Galileo, Copernicus, and the old belief that the earth was the center of the universe, Mr. Murdock rejected a new report from Mr. Studenroth repeating a short list of questions about the project and “moved to strike it” from the record “as insufficient”; complained that his Freedom of Information Request to the village for Mr. Studenroth’s resume had been rejected with the excuse it wasn’t in the village’s files; and accused him of having “dismissively ignored our presentation” at a previous meeting of the board, which Mr. Murdock converted into text and a bound volume that he held up for the public to see.

He said Mr. Studenroth had written “a biased critique of the project” and said, “My experience as an African American was we were not being heard.”

Referring to a lawsuit they brought against the village over a zoning matter in the 1990s when an antiques shop they ran on Washington Street was converted to a yoga studio, he said, “We have been violated over the last 15 years” and finally “vindicated,” an apparent reference to the recent settlement of the case by the village’s insurance company.

When Mr. Murdock finished his reading, Mr. Gomolka thanked him and — without going into any of the points Mr. Murdock had raised — asked Mr. Studenroth and the two other board members present for the case to review each elevation of the proposed renovation to discuss their concerns. Two board members, John C. Connor and Bethany Deyermond, recused themselves because of past involvement with the two partners.

“I think that’s a great photo,” Mr. Studenroth said of a photograph showing a Demilune window in the attic that the partners plan to custom replicate. When Mr. Fields said he had a glass pane from the actual window that he had found in a storage area under the eaves, “That’s wonderful. That’s fabulous,” Mr. Studenroth said.

On a question Mr. Studenroth had raised in his reports about plans for the cellar windows, Mr. Fields said their sizes would not be changed. “Then the drawings need to be changed,” Mr. Studenroth said. “That’s a quickie,” he said, and it only took 45 seconds of discussion to resolve, he commented.

After about an hour of questions-and-answers, the board appeared satisfied. It requested plans clarifying “four or five details,” as Mr. Gomolka put it, as well as the original photograph of the Demilune window, and tabled the application for a final decision at the board’s next meeting on August 8.