A nearly 17,000-square-foot house proposed on Gin Lane in Southampton Village has a few residents concerned that it is just too big, even for the village’s estate section.
Many of the concerns from the half dozen residents who spoke out against the project at a public hearing held by the village’s Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation on Monday evening targeted the height, placement and overall size of the main building, as well as a landscaping plan and the choice of trees.
Manhattan-based architect Timothy Haynes presented updated plans for the two properties, 24 and 28 Gin Lane, at Monday night’s public hearing, which was packed with about 15 to 20 residents. His proposal is to create a compound for his client, international investor Scott Shleifer, that would include the 16,870-square-foot main house, on the 28 Gin Lane lot, and a guest house of 3,700 square feet on the second parcel.
Mr. Haynes described a driveway that “serpentines through old trees” that exist on the properties, which he said Mr. Shleifer wanted to keep because he “loved them.” The architect also said there would be a row of flowering pear trees all the way down an existing hedgerow on the eastern side of the property.
Farther down the driveway would be the main house, which would face east-west instead of north-south, due to the long and narrow nature of the combined 6.5-acre property.
Through a limited liability corporation, Mr. Shleifer purchased the two properties in December 2015, paying $40 million to buy 28 Gin Lane from William G. McKnight III, and $13 million to purchase 24 Gin Lane from JV 24 Gin Lane LLC. The latter property was 2.75 acres of land, while the larger purchase included 3.77 acres of land on the ocean, an existing two-story, 4,597-square-foot home with nine bedrooms, five bathrooms and two kitchens, plus another two-story, 2,382-square-foot home with five bedrooms and four bathrooms that was built in 1900.
The proposed new main house would feature a master bedroom with his-and-her bathrooms, four regular bedrooms outfitted with a bathroom each, three guest bedrooms with bathrooms for each, two maids’ bedrooms with their own bathrooms, a game room, kids playroom, massage room, sauna, gym and yoga room, and two-car garage. All of the living spaces would be on the southern wing, which faces the ocean.
Some of the residents who spoke on Monday said they were concerned with the size—both the width and height—of the merged property.
Bill Manger, a neighbor who lives off Fairlea Road, expressed concerns about the flowering pear trees, saying they are susceptible to wind and can blow over easily. He also said he worries that the trees will shade his pool. As for the size of the house, he said he does not want to look at a 200-foot wall—or house—behind his house.
“The elephant in the room is the 200-foot expanse and the mass and the scale of that mass on the neighbors to the east,” Jeff Bragman, an attorney who represented Mr. Manger, told the board on Monday.
Southampton Village-based attorney John Bennett was at the meeting to represent the architect. He told the board that the residents want to convince the board that the proposed house “would be outside the character of the neighborhood, in terms of height and size,” when in fact he thinks it falls “squarely within the character of the neighborhood.”
“There are people telling us the house is too high, when their houses are 10 to 15 feet higher,” Mr. Bennett said in an interview on Tuesday.
For Mr. Haynes’s plans, the maximum allowable height, according to the village code, is 52 feet above sea level. As an accommodation to the neighbors, Mr. Bennett said, Mr. Haynes lowered the elevation of the house to 50.5 feet.
At the public hearing, Mr. Bennett told the board that Mr. Manger’s house is 61.29 feet above sea level, and the top of a house owned by another neighbor, William Michaelcheck, is 63.2 feet above sea level. “Again, you have this house which is 15 feet lower than the Michaelcheck house,” he said.
From an environmental standpoint, Mr. Bennett said the house is set back from the dunes instead of being built right on the dunes, as neighboring properties are.
On the other side, Mr. Bragman pointed out flaws with the design, including double layers of windows that line up and present a look that he said is commercial in nature. The shingle style was not classic style, he said, adding that the front facade is not attractive. He also said a 200-foot-wide building is not a classic characteristic of the shingle style they are using, and asked the board to look over the material before making a decision.
Letters read into the record by Pam Michaelcheck cited objections to the height of the proposed house and concerns that property values would be negatively impacted by the proposed house.
Behind the board in Village Hall is a mural of Lake Agawam, looking to the north. Mr. Michaelcheck suggested possibly having the mural repainted to show the view just slightly farther—to show Mr. Shleifer’s property. “The very fact that it’s behind you here at Village Hall, the iconic view of Southampton,” he said. “You’re going to change that view significantly.”
One of the views that residents asked the board to consider is when people look east from the St. Andrew’s Dune Church parking lot on Gin Lane. Their concern is that if this house is built, it will become a major focal point.
“We’re all here because this is such a beautiful place,” Southampton resident Ellen Scarborough told the board. “Anything that takes charm from our place should be taken very seriously, because little by little everybody who adds something else—higher, bigger, taller—it changes what we have here, and I think that has to be really considered carefully.”
Mr. Bennett, on the other hand, called it a great project and said people should be supportive of it.
“If anyone is going to tell me that house is too big, they’re trying to distort the facts,” Mr. Bennett said on Tuesday. “[Southampton] is an area that has seen variations and styles. This is hardly a stark, modern house. I wish people would embrace the beauty of the architecture.”