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Aug 25, 2015 3:29 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Builders Appeal For Basement Bedrooms In East Hampton

Builders implored the Town Board to hold back on renewing a ban on basement bedrooms. M. Wright
Aug 25, 2015 3:29 PM

Builders and their advocates pleaded with East Hampton Town Board members last week to hold back on banning the creation of bedrooms in underground cellars or basements.

“My wife and I raised our children in a three-bedroom ranch and, when it came time, we finished our basement, and it helped us keep our kids comfortable,” Roy Dalene, a builder, told the board at a public hearing on the issue on Thursday night, August 20.

“Basement bedrooms can be part of the efficiency of a home by design,” builder Michael Forst, speaking on behalf of the Long Island Builders Institute, told the board. “A legal basement bedroom provides an opportunity for young adults to remain with their parents while they work and contribute to the local economy. You do not need a bedroom to sleep in a basement. I think we should be promoting safe sleeping in East Hampton.”

Although such rooms have been prohibited in the town code since at least 1985, the Town Board is currently considering new legislation to “affirm” the ban, since its enforcement has slipped in recent years.

The original law primarily noted safety concerns as the reason behind the prohibition. Several years ago, building inspectors stopped blocking basement bedrooms if they were outfitted with escape passages that met state fire safety codes. That came after former public safety director Pat Gunn issued a directive to building inspectors that the town should not enforce the requirement if the safety considerations were met. That stance was also supported by some former members of the Town Board.

“Theresa [Quigley] had insisted that we had to allow for it, because it’s allowed under the state code,” Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said this week, referring to bedrooms in basements under certain circumstances. “But if you carried that forward, then we would also have to allow high-rise buildings in the town. So it’s really a zoning issue.”

After Springs residents discovered earlier this summer that two new houses under construction were to be used by the Ross School as dormitories for as many as 20 students each—including in underground bedrooms—outcry over the allowance reached a fever pitch.

The new legislation nods to concerns about overcrowding and various zoning considerations as the rationale for barring basement bedrooms. But builders said overcrowding issues are code enforcement concerns, not zoning issues, and that bedrooms are a reasonable convenience that would not cause problems if the rules are enforced properly.

Britton Bistrian, a development consultant from Amagansett, said that some people are going to convert basement space into bedrooms whether they are legal or not, and that keeping them legal will make it more likely they will be constructed with safety in mind. “Being inspected and permitted in the light of day saves lives,” she said.

Some residents disagreed. They said that allowing bedrooms in basements would cause overcrowding, whether legal or illegal.

“Why are we allowing three levels of living space?” architect Judy Freeman said. “As an architect, I think finishing basement space is a good idea for many reasons. I would hate to not be able to use a basement for living. But we should allow no more than two floors [with bedrooms] in a residence.”

Sagaponack Village Building Inspector John Woudsma, who is also a builder, said that his village chose to limit bedrooms by requiring that a house have commensurate parking spaces for each bedroom within the building envelope, but allows the bedrooms to be located anywhere in the house, as long as safety standards are met.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the board plans to have further discussions about the law before adopting anything. “With the density issue, do you want 25 people living in a house? Of course not—but there may be a way to tailor this to help people who are in need of an inexpensive expansion,” he added. “There is some nuance here, and we’re going to work on it some more.”

The matter will be the subject of a work session meeting on September 1.

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Welcome to socialism. Keep your f in nose out of my house!
By chief1 (2768), southampton on Aug 25, 15 7:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
As always chief, thanks for the irrelevant polemics. Anarchy is not freedom.

I'm with Mr. Dalene on this one. Young people just out of college and even some older than that simply cannot afford their own home out here thanks the double edged sword which so many defend so vociferously at times. There are even well educated professionals who cannot do so.

Bottom line is that safety is the primary concern, and as long as the basement is in compliance with all codes, it should be ...more
Aug 25, 15 9:13 PM appended by Mr. Z
And, for the sake of argument, why should your kids pay rent and cover someone else's mortgage, when you have the opportunity to keep your family together and get everybody forward?
By Mr. Z (11554), North Sea on Aug 25, 15 9:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
People who finish their basement can allow for sleeping rooms. Why does it have to be legalized?? Invite the tax man in?? And keep the zoning laws in effect. If it's a one family home it should be how many people per square footage not who sleeps where. Some bedrooms can sleep up to three or more people.
By Bridget325 (27), Hampton Bays on Aug 26, 15 12:27 AM
There is actually exists a board that can tell people what they can and cannot do with their basement?
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Aug 26, 15 5:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
It's called zoning.
By bird (817), Sag Harbor on Aug 26, 15 6:09 PM
Please let us bedrooms in basements...we need more space for the illegals.
By Preliator Lives (429), Obamavillie on Aug 26, 15 6:35 AM
^^^This guy is blatantly admitting that he's housing illegals and needs space for MORE of them and no one is gonna say anything!?
By Pacman (266), East Quogue on Aug 26, 15 9:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
I think he was being facetious! David Buda
By davbud (122), east hampton on Aug 26, 15 11:22 AM
It;s called sarcasm Pacman.
Now, eat your words.
By Q333 (161), Southampton on Aug 26, 15 6:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
See the story "Landlord Without Permit Could Face Loss Of Rent Paid". There is an opportunity here to have the occupancy rules enforce themselves.
By bird (817), Sag Harbor on Aug 26, 15 7:18 PM
Three years ago a majority of the Town Board, in essence, directed the Building Department to begin allowing bedrooms to be constructed in basements/cellars, contrary to a longstanding provision of the Town Zoning Code. This decision was made as a result of a “misinterpretation” of the effect of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (the “Uniform Code”) on local authority to regulate such matters as zoning, historic preservation, wetlands protection, ...more
By davbud (122), east hampton on Aug 28, 15 1:39 PM
They are legitimate concerns as long as they don't infringe on people's rights. Telling someone what to do in the confines of their home is very invasive.
By chief1 (2768), southampton on Aug 31, 15 6:55 PM
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