Part of Old House Saved from Demolition; Changed Plans Require ARB Review

The gabled portion of the original structure, which was to have been incorporated in the new house going up at 20 Grand Street, now sits in the rear of the property. Peter Boody photo

Building Inspector Thomas Preiato has ordered a halt to much of the construction of a new house at 20 Grand Street because the site’s original late 19th-century building, part of which was to have been incorporated into the new structure, seemed headed for imminent demolition. Also, a roof was built in the rear of the new house that differs from the design approved by the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board in 2018.

In recent years, it has become common for Sag Harbor’s regulatory boards to be asked to approve work that was done without permits or approvals. The Zoning Board of Appeals this fall reluctantly granted setback and pyramid law variances for a poured concrete house at 8 Wilson Place in Ninevah that was larger than depicted in the plans that had been submitted to the Building Department.

Board members agreed that the high cost of tearing down and rebuilding the structure outweighed any negative impact the structure may have on the neighborhood.

“This is yet another instance of disregard for the code,” Mr. Preiato commented on the 20 Grand Street case in an emailed response to questions, “an attitude that is becoming more prevalent. There was nothing of the sort, some 20 years ago, when I first became an inspector. It’s a sad trend of apparent entitlement and disrespect.”

He noted that the “owner and engineer contend that the old building was unsafe and wasn’t usable,” and added that the applicant, Tal Litvin of Green Barn Holdings 2 LLC, should have gone back to the Review Board to get permission before making changes to the project.

Mr. Preiato’s first stop work order was issued on June 17; it was followed by a partial stop work order on September 20 that allowed work to continue on unaffected sections of the project. He also issued an appearance ticket for non-compliance and ordered the applicant go back to the Review Board to approve the modified plans.

The appearance ticket is returnable in Justice Court on November 5 at 12 p.m. The application to approve the changes in the project may be on the agenda for the November 14 meeting of the Review Board, if the documentation that has been submitted to the Building Department is deemed complete by Mr. Preiato.

Mr. Litvin, responding to questions by email, wrote that “clearly there has been a misunderstanding here so I appreciate the opportunity to help clarify on the matter. Our goal is and has always been to complete this family home in a manner that respects the historical character and vernacular of the neighborhood. With an old structure, our largest challenge is to ensure the building is safe and also compliant” with building codes. He added he would be willing to comment further “once we have completed our update with the board.”

The BHPARB, which issues “certificates of appropriateness” for new construction and changes to existing structures in the Sag Harbor Historic District, last year agreed to allow 380 square feet of the existing residence to be demolished. Another 378 square feet was to have been renovated and incorporated into the new house, which would total 2,424 square feet on the first floor and 658 square feet on a new second floor.

The original house is considered a “contributing structure” to the historic district. It is described in the 1994 registry of the district, which is on file with the National Register of Historic Places, as a one-and-one-half story, three-bay frame house probably built around 1890 to 1900, with six-over-six and 12-over-12 light wooden sash windows with aluminum siding and asphalt shingle wall cladding. It has a front-gabled roof with a decorative window in the gable.

That gabled portion of the house last week was sitting in the back of the property, having been removed from its foundation to make way for the entirely new structure.

Neighbor Mare Dianore at 26 Grand Street said this week that she had called the building inspector when she and her husband saw demolition equipment being moved into place, with her husband, Claes Brondal, confronting the work crew.

Mr. Preiato arrived at the scene quickly, arriving in time to “to stop any further destruction,” Mr. Preiato wrote. He added that the approved plan called for the owner to temporarily remove the remaining gabled portion of the old structure, “build a foundation under it, place it back and substantially add to the home. What had happened, while I was out of town, was that the structure was replicated in new materials and NOT placed back on a foundation.”

“Also, a different design of roof than was permitted was constructed in an area to the rear,” Mr. Preiato wrote, adding that since then he had issued a “partial stop work order” allowing work to continue “in unaffected areas.”