By Stephen J. Kotz
The owner of a house on Gull Rock Road in Sag Harbor that once belonged to an African-American farmer in Sagaponack received permission from the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review on Thursday, September 28, to demolish it.
The board made the decision after determining the house, owned by Kathleen Cooper under the name Butterfly Homes, LLC, was not protected as a village landmark or have any other restrictions on its title.
The house, which had been the home of Bevery Stewart, was formerly on Parsonage Lane in Sagaponack. When Michael Davis purchased the property and wanted to redevelop it, he agreed to give the house to Lidz Pauyo, who moved it to its current location, on Gull Rock Road in Sag Harbor Hills, where it was allowed to languish.
Ms. Cooper had received prior approval to renovate the house, but the village building inspector, Tom Preiato, issued a stop-work order when workers began to tear it down without a demolition permit. When she appeared before the ARB two weeks ago to request that permit, several neighbors objected, saying steps should be taken to preserve it, but the board determined it did not have the legal standing to do so.
The ARB’s consultant, Zach Studenroth, said his research showed the house was not included in any historic district in Sagaponack nor earmarked for preservation. “The final decision there was to basically stay the demolition and enable the new owner to come and relocate the house from Sagaponack to Sag Harbor,” he said.
“There is nothing in the title report that indicated any restrictions on the house or property in any way,” added the board’s attorney, Elizabeth Vail, who said she also checked records in both villages and found no restrictions on the house.
Another board member, Val Florio, who is an architect, said he visited the site and concurred with Mr. Preiato that the building was not salvageable. “In good conscience, I wanted to find out for myself,” Mr. Florio said. The house had rot and decay and could not be brought to modern standards, he said.
Ms. Cooper said she recognized the importance of the building to the community and said she would ask her contractor to try to save some of the beams during the demolition process and try to repurpose them
“What I think this situation would benefit from is the story of the house being recorded in some way, but not the structure itself,” said the board’s chairman, Anthony Brandt.
Ms. Cooper agreed to do that, agreeing to the suggestion that a historic record of the house be compiled, consisting of photographs and any documents that can be collected, and submitted to the Sag Harbor Historical Society.
Following a brief hearing, the ARB approved the plans of 94 Franklin Avenue, LLC, which is owned by Judy Licht Della Femina and Jesse Della Femina, to renovate a house at that address.
According to records in the file in the village building department, the project will expand the house from 1,503 square feet of roofed area to 2,520. Total coverage will be 4,123 square feet, just 2 feet below the limit.
The project’s architect, James McChesney, said plans for a picket fence had been eliminated at the board’s request. The only neighbor to speak about the application, David Alpern, said a proposed hedge would be “more pleasant appropriate.”
A proposal to remake a historic house at 39 Howard Street remains stalled. The property is owned by Juliana Terian under the name Julane Properties. LLC. Board members have reviewed new plans for a major renovation and expansion of the house the past two meetings objecting to the massing and modern appearance of an addition proposed by architect Frank Mazzarella.
The project has also been opposed by two neighbors. Frank Ahimaz, who owns a house next door, said a prior proposal to build a traditional addition was more appropriate and should be revisited. Edwina Annacelli, who lives across the street, said the proposed addition was too large and inappropriate for the neighborhood. The board asked Mr. Mazzarella to return with updated plans on October 12.
A proposal to build a modern house at 48 Lincoln Street, before the board as a discussion item, drew the ire of neighbors. The house is being proposed by Herringbone Holdings, one of several real estate partnerships in which the attorney Bruce Bronster is involved. Although architect Randolph Croxton said efforts had been made to site the approximately 3,900-square-foot house in a way to minimize its impact on neighbors, Susan Henriques-Payne, who lives nearby on Taft Street, objected to a rooftop deck with a trellis.
“I have watched the reengineering of our entire community,” she said, noting that small house have been increasingly replaced by large ones. Despite Mr. Croxton’s promise to save as many trees on the site as possible to provide noise insulation, she said she feared noise from the house would cause a disturbance.
Bernice Giscombe of 92 Hillside Drive also objected, saying “to add more height and entertainment space to that little corner of Sag Harbor is just unbelievable.”
Two board members appeared to hear their pleas. Dean Gomolka said he objected to rooftop decks in general and suggested that it be eliminated, and Mr. Florio said he thought the trellis would encourage more noisy activity on the roof. When Ms. Vail said she could not speculate about a possible future code violation, Mr. Florio said he believed the trellis added too much mass to the house.
“We see vegetation as the tool, the design tool, of making it a humane and a good neighbor,” Mr. Croxton said of the proposed natural screening.