ZBA Says Garden Street Variance Request Too Big



The house at 52 Garden Street in Sag Harbor Village.

By Christine Sampson

In the long run, achieving four out of five of one’s objectives might not sound so bad, but when it came to Garden Street homeowner Sara Colleton’s bid for five Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals variances on Tuesday, it was a critical fifth request that proved controversial and ultimately was denied.

Ms. Colleton originally sought a pyramid variance of about 4,100 cubic feet, which the ZBA was poised to reject last month, for a two-story addition onto the back of her house. Her architect, Kathryn Fee, then scaled back its size by about 16 percent, 3,448 cubic feet.

According to her attorney, Dennis Downes, Ms. Colleton wants to renovate the back of the first floor of her house into a two-story addition to be able to build a master bedroom and bathroom on the second floor. Mr. Downes has previously said Ms. Colleton is 6-feet-tall and is unable to fully stand up on the upper level of her one-and-a-half story house.

On Tuesday, after modifying the request for the pyramid variance, Ms. Fee said, “We’ve done our best to minimize the impact. We’re trying to be respectful of the neighbor. … We understand that they are very close.”

But it wasn’t good enough for ZBA chairman Tim McGuire and his colleagues on the board.

“The pyramid variance is still too large,” Mr. McGuire said.

“The nature of this particular zoning violation just seems very big to me in comparison to the neighborhood,” ZBA member Karl Kaiser said.

“Even though I appreciate the fact that it’s in the back … it’s a big variance,” ZBA member Bob Plumb said.

Attorney Jeff Bragman, representing a neighbor, Robin Young, whose house at 56 Garden Street is about 52 inches from Ms. Colleton’s house, lobbied for the board to turn down the pyramid variance.

“Our impression of the change that they’ve brought in tonight is that it’s pretty minimal,” he said. “The number really speaks for itself.”

But Mr. Downes argued that any house with a lot size as small as hers — 52 Garden Street is just 39 feet wide — is going to need a pyramid variance of some sort.

The ZBA did, however, approve four other variances for Ms. Colleton’s building project. A nonconforming, external air conditioning unit on the property can remain in place and variances for a front porch extension and addition on one side were approved. The total building coverage variance was deemed negligible at .6 percent, so it, too, was approved. A planned retaining wall required for a new septic system, which would otherwise have required a variance, will be moved in such a way that it does not require one.

Noticeably absent from Mr. Downes’s arguments Tuesday was any reference to the Americans With Disabilities Act, which he cited during the March meeting. Ms. Colleton’s height was a reason why the ZBA should approve her application, Mr. Downes had argued.

It is unclear what steps Ms. Colleton might take next in her building project; Mr. Downes did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Also Tuesday, an application by Wolffer Kitchen for variances for proper egress was tabled until August at the request, Mr. McGuire said, of the restaurant.

A public hearing on the flagpole at the Gulf gas station on Route 114, formerly known as Harbor Heights, was postponed until the May 16 ZBA meeting.

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