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May 21, 2013 3:46 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

64,000 Square Feet Not Enough--Rennert Wants More Space

May 21, 2013 4:42 PM
Ira Rennert, whose Sagaponack compound is among the largest private residences in the nation and spurred more restrictive building codes, is now looking to expand.

Representatives of Mr. Rennert have applied to the Sagaponack Village Zoning Board of Appeals for relief from the village’s restrictions on the percentage of a property that can be covered by structures to allow him to triple the size of one of two small poolside structures on the property.

Mr. Rennert’s attorney, Gil Flanagan, said that the proposal would expand the size of the current pool house from 386 square feet to 1,019 square feet, an addition of 633 square feet. The extra space would allow for the addition of two extra bathrooms, a sauna and a pilates studio.

“Right now, all it has is a vestibule and one bathroom, which is pretty minimal by any standard, even here in Southampton Village,” said Mr. Flanagan, who is based in Southampton. “The test for an area variance is the balance test: Is the benefit to the applicant outweighed by the burden to the neighbors or the community? There would certainly be no perceptible impact on the neighborhood whatsoever here.”

Mr. Rennert’s oceanfront property is 63 acres. It features a sprawling 64,389-square-foot main house, plus 12 other structures on the property, which include a two-story “playhouse” with a footprint of more than 7,400 square feet, plus gatehouses at the entrance to the property, staff quarters, a greenhouse, and several mechanical and maintenance buildings. All told, a total of well over 100,000 square feet is under roof on the property.

The main house has a total lot coverage of 37,825 square feet, and all of the buildings bring the total lot coverage up to 64,483 square feet.

When it was developed in the late 1990s, the estate conformed to Southampton Town building restrictions, which limited house size only as a percentage of the total lot area; even with a footprint of more than 64,000 square feet, it covers only a small fraction of the 63-acre property. Following Mr. Rennert’s proposal, however, the town placed a 15,000-square-foot maximum on any houses, regardless of lot size.

The property is now the purview of Sagaponack Village, which, when it incorporated in 2005, adopted the town’s house size cap, while incorporating its own floor area ratio for limiting building size on smaller lots.

“That house was the reason for one of the first incorporation drives in Sagaponack,” Mayor Donald Louchheim said, “and it was the reason for our limits on house sizes.”
Considering Code Enforcement
The Sagaponack Village Board is considering hiring a part-time code enforcement officer to handle complaints from residents about a variety of violations of village quality-of-life codes.

On Monday, Mayor Louchheim said the board is considering having an officer on duty on weekends during July and August. He said the expense, about $5,000 for the year, likely would not be a concern.

Board members noted that currently the only response to code infractions comes from Southampton Town Police officers when the complaints warrant, or from the village’s part-time building inspector, John Woudsma. The broad variety of complaints that come in, from construction beginning too early or continuing too late on weekends, to illegally parked cars, to noisy parties, cannot be fully addressed without a dedicated officer, board members said.

“I think people will appreciate it,” Trustee Lisa Thayer said, who noted that construction workers even worked on one local project on Easter Sunday.
Village Elections
Sagaponack Trustees Bill Barbour and Joy Sieger will run unopposed for reelection to the Village Board next month. It will be Mr. Barbour’s second term on the board and Ms. Sieger’s fourth full term. She was one of the village’s original trustees elected shortly after incorporation in 2005. Terms in the village are two years.

Voting will be held on June 21 at Village Hall from noon to 9 p.m.

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