Zoning Board Balks at 11 Variances on Vickers Street

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The house at 5 Vickers Street. Photo via Sag Harbor Building Department

The Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals also took on the amended application of Adam Scott and Christopher Beacham at 5 Vickers Street, which has three front yards.

Seeking to expand the house and build a swimming pool and a patio, the homeowners at one point requested 13 variances, including a pyramid variance of 4,107 cubic feet and a 9-foot tall fence in the front yard where 4 feet is the maximum. On Tuesday, the homeowners and their architect, Richard Searles, made the case for 11 variances, including some that have been scaled down from the original requests, such as a 3,638-cubic-foot pyramid variance request. Some of them, including building coverage and a front yard variance for a swimming pool and patio, were eliminated.

“It’s too many variances,” board member Susan Mead said. “That’s a signal to me that you’re not trying to work with the existing site, and I don’t see the benefit to the community.”

The board suggested Mr. Searles move the pool southwest, closer to the house, to try to hide it behind the house.

“Even if there are more variances, they would be much more palatable if you could get the pool behind the house and get it to step down with the site as much as you can,” board member Scott Baker said.

“We can take a shot at that,” Mr. Searles said.

Water on Two Sides Makes for Unique Situation

At 62 John Street, Jeffrey and Michelle Rosenberg sought variances that would allow them to build a swimming pool, spa and septic retaining wall on a property that is surrounded by water on two sides. The ZBA had requested additional plant screening, which landscape architect John Hamilton said would be provided in a detailed presentation.

“We think with the existing conditions left in place and our added efforts of screening, it will be a heavily planted and protected area,” he said.

Asked by Ms. Mead why the pool could not be located behind the house, rather than in what is technically a front yard, Mr. Hamilton explained the wetlands make that placement challenging, and the new septic system has to be placed in a specific location as well.

The application is also before the village’s Harbor Committee, but that board deferred to the ZBA before it would offer a decision.

“I hate to not have the Harbor Committee give us what their preference is,” Ms. Mead said.

“They’re not going to let that pool go in the backyard. Definitely not,” Ms. Schoen speculated.

Mr. Stein said one of the things he liked about the proposal is “the sensitivity to the wetlands.”

Mr. Hamilton also said consideration was given to rainwater drainage on the property. The proposed terrace has an “open vault” below it for the storage of pool equipment and to minimize the fill necessary on the property. “Water percolates through” and will “drain to drywells,” he said.

The board appeared ready to take a straw poll, but Bruce Anderson, the applicants’ environmental consultant, asked for an adjournment to January 15 with the hope that a full board would be present. Only four voting board members were in attendance on Tuesday, with its new alternate member, Hamil Willoughby, simply observing the meeting because he had not been formally sworn in yet by the village clerk.

Definition of a Street at Heart of Zoning Application

The Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday found itself struggling to confirm whether West Henry Street is truly a street after a resident with a house near village property presented a request for multiple variances.

David Florence’s 11 West Henry Street house is on what appears to be a dead-end street that is closed to through-traffic because it backs up to, but does not access, the village’s highway yard.

Mr. Florence sought permission to expand the house by approximately 624 square feet and add a storage shed, pool and cabana. For the house, he needed variances for a 4.5-foot side yard setback where 15 feet are required, and a 4-foot variance for a rear yard setback where 30 feet are required. He needed two front yard setback variances for the shed and pool of 14.5 feet, where 35 feet are required.

After some ZBA members asked whether the pool could be moved closer to the house and the accessory structures turned in such a way that they screened the pool from the surrounding properties, architect Michael Mensch pointed out the special circumstance of the house’s location on what may technically not be a street.

“A lot of thought has gone into the placement of these structures,” he said. “The density is much less by pushing the buildings to the perimeter of the lot.”

Mr. Mensch offered to seek permission from the village to have Mr. Florence plant the 20-foot buffer area between his property and the village yard with dense vegetation so the pool would be even less visible.

The board members agreed they were fine with the variances to green-light the house addition, but paused when they and their attorney, Denise Schoen, could not come to a consensus of the true definition of West Henry Street as a legal street. They agreed to ask building inspector Tom Preiato for a clarification and tabled the discussion to the board’s January 15 meeting.

“My feeling is that we can’t go sensibly forward without knowing Tom’s determination,” board chairman Robby Stein said.

ZBA Decisions Are Approved

The ZBA on Tuesday formally approved Temple Adas Israel’s application for lot coverage, building coverage and front yard setback variances. The approval will allow the synagogue to add 609 square feet to the building to accommodate a new elevator and bathrooms in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. ZBA attorney Denise Schoen noted language in New York State case law that says zoning boards “need to be flexible in granting variances” for religious institutions in cases where maintaining freedom to practice religion is a factor.

The ZBA also formally approved an application from Sen restaurant for a variance waiving the requirement to add off-street parking spaces that normally comes with increasing seating. The approval, for three parking spaces, allows the restaurant to increase its seating from 86 to 94.

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