Historic houses in Sag Harbor are largely protected from being demolished and completely rebuilt based on their architectural status as “contributing” resources, but non-historic houses are another story altogether.
A quick look at the agenda from last Thursday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review confirms that. Six applications for new houses were before the board in a single meeting, including one that was up for a formal public hearing and three that were in the preliminary stages of development.
“People want to be here, there’s no doubt about that,” Sag Harbor Building Inspector Thomas Preiato said Wednesday. “The market seems to have a few completed hefty projects sitting, but applications are still coming in at a good clip. Yes, it takes a fair amount of resources to ensure all the proper steps are taken for demos and rebuilds, but that seems to be the trend. People aren’t satisfied with minor renovations to modest homes. They are going for the glory and at a lightning pace.”
With two of its five members absent — chairman Dean Gomolka and member Bethany Deyermond — the review board voted 3-0 to approve a new house for Sandra Farkas at 14 John Street. According to documents on file with the Sag Harbor Building Department, the plans call for demolition of the existing house down to its foundation and construction of a new, 2,5000-square-foot house using the same footprint with elements of a Greek-revival style. Attorney Brian DeSesa explained the project needed a public hearing because it involved demolition in the historic district even though it is not an historic house. At 32 feet tall, it conforms to zoning regulations. By direction from the village’s Harbor Committee, the property will be “meadow-like,” according to Mr. DeSesa.
“The prevailing goal is to keep it natural,” he said Thursday. “… We’ll still provide screening but not necessarily hedge the property out. John Street is a walking street. You’d still be able to see the architecture and the large trees in the front yard.”
The review board also voted 3-0 to approve another new house on John Street, this one a one-and-a-half story, 2,625-square-foot house at 62 John Street for Jeffrey Rosenberg. The “transitional style” house had been before the village’s regulatory boards for five years, according to architect Anthony Vermandois. The plans also include a 36-by-14 foot infinity pool, an 8-foot square spa and extensive replanting of a wetlands buffer, ranging from 30 feet to 50 feet around the two sides of the property that are on the water.
A public hearing was set for a new, 3,174-square-foot house proposed on a vacant lot at 5 Carver Street by property owner Gustavo Martinez. His representative, architect Paul Clinton, said the proposed house’s style is “in the vein of a modern farmhouse.” According to documents on file with the Building Department, the house complies with zoning rules. Plans show a roof deck and a storage and laundry room in the basement. The review board sent Mr. Clinton off with instructions to fine-tune the plans and a proposed landscaping illustration before the public hearing.
When 176 Redwood Road came up for discussion — another waterfront home in a preliminary stage of development, and one of several Redwood properties the board has seen in recent weeks — Zach Studenroth, the board’s historic preservation consultant, offered some context.
“While Redwood was acquired in 1931 by a single owner … the idea of developing it as a community never happened. The Great Depression happened,” Mr. Studenroth said. “Properties were developed piecemeal. And that’s why, when you drive around, you don’t get a single vision. Some of the buildings were built in the 1950s, more in the ‘60s, more in the ‘70s. … We can’t look to some architectural model that would be typical of the period and see it repeated.”
According to documents on file with the Building Department, the proposal at 176 Redwood Road is for demolition of the existing house and construction of a new four-bedroom, five-bathroom house with a balcony and a grass courtyard in between the house and the garage with “screening walls” that would keep it hidden from view. The house would need approval from the Harbor Committee and variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals before the owner, the Cara Halpern Family Trust, can get the green-light from the review board.
The review board also discussed two more applications that are in preliminary stages: a demolition and new, 2,700-square-foot house with a garage at 44 Richards Drive in the Azurest neighborhood, and a new, modular house to be built on vacant land at 16 Harbor Avenue in the Sag Harbor Hills community. The latter would need zoning variances, according to notes on file with the Building Department, and the review board asked Kevin Kolbenheyer, the owner’s representative, to add more architectural distinctiveness to the design.
Sag Harbor Cinema Gets Additional Roof Terrace Space
Architect Allen Kopelson, representing the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, made a pitch for a 9-by-4 foot extension of the new building’s third-floor roof deck, which would increase that part of the deck to 520 square feet from the previously-approved, approximately 300 square feet.
“The purpose of doing this is to have a space where we can entertain people for fundraisers,” Mr. Kopelson said. “It gives us an opportunity to have a little more space out there so it’s comfortable and not squeezed.”
He said the maximum occupancy of the space is 49 people, and that the Sag Harbor Partnership, which is rebuilding the cinema following the December 2016 fire that destroyed much of the structure, chose not to max out the outdoor space in consideration for its next-door neighbors.
“They have theirs that looks right at us,” Mr. Kopelson told the review board. “It would be a nicer thing.”
He invited the board members to see the building in person.
The board approved the cinema’s updated application 3-0, subject to Sag Harbor Planning Board approval, as the site plan for a slate of updates has yet to be approved. That board will hear the cinema’s application again on May 28.
Denial of Demolition Discussion on Division Street
Shannan North, an associate broker with Brown Harris Stevens, sought advice from the review board on redevelopment possibilities for 268 Division Street, but the board’s attorney, Elizabeth Vail, advised the board against offering an official opinion.
Ms. North said “after many showings” of the house, the question that always comes up is, “Can it be torn down?”
“It intimidates a lot of people,” she said. If it cannot be demolished, she said, “as a result, you’re going to have a house that’s completely dilapidated.”
But Ms. Vail told Ms. North because she was there for an informal “discussion” session, “There’s nothing really solid you can get from them you can rely on. You should be looking at the code and speaking with an attorney. You should never be able to go to a purchaser and say, ‘Yes, this discretionary board said you could tear this down.’”
An earlier version of this article inaccurately described the basement in Mr. Martinez’s proposed house. It has been corrected.