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Sep 30, 2009 2:46 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Planning Board denies mansion application

Sep 30, 2009 2:46 PM

The East Hampton Town Planning Board on Wednesday voted 5-2 to deny an application to build a 14,566-square-foot mansion on a 40-acre lot of farmland in Wainscott last Wednesday.

The board, which directed its attorney to draw up a formal resolution denying the application, expressed concern that the proposed location of the house on the property would block public views and forgo the possibility of a future cluster subdivision, which would result in smaller houses built on smaller lots on one corner of the property. Some members were also concerned that the house was incompatible with the flavor of the neighborhood.

“We need to look at it as if it was a subdivision because it’s going to happen and they just didn’t demonstrate that they could cluster future houses or make it an open space subdivision,” said Sylvia Overby, the chairwoman of the Planning Board, in a phone interview this week. “Where they put the house is not the ideal location for putting a house on the property if you’re going to come back and say, ‘Now we’d like to do a subdivision.’”

The property’s owner, Jeffrey Colle and 55 Wainscott Hollow LLC, submitted a site-plan application to build the house, along with a tennis court, pool and pool house in early 2008. Since then, neighbors, who have been represented by a resident of Wainscott Hollow Road, attorney David Eagan, have been concerned about the size of the proposed house, and that its construction would harm some of the property’s prime agricultural soil and possibly alter or destroy the historic 1802 Edwards farmhouse that sits on the property next to the site of the proposed mansion.

“The town finally got it right,” said Mr. Eagan. “This size house and this location on the property was out of character for the location. This part of Wainscott does not have houses anywhere near that size.” The house would have been one of the largest in East Hampton Town, even though the Town Code allows houses to contain up to 20,000 square feet.

Mr. Eagan has long argued that the board was mistaken in declaring that the proposed building did not merit an extensive environmental impact study under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The application’s planner, Eric Schantz, said that because the application was for a single-family residence, it automatically was a “Type II action” under SEQRA, meaning it did not merit an impact study.

“Regrettably the application, throughout most of its review, kind of got sidelined,” Mr. Schantz said, referring to repeated discussion of whether the application should be changed to a “Type I action” and undergo environmental review.

Mr. Eagan had also argued that the applicant was guilty of segmentation under SEQRA because he clearly had plans to subdivide the property once his application for the first house was approved. Mr. Colle, a high-end developer, even advertised 55 Wainscott Hollow Road on his website as a subdivided property of two lots, with one side described as “a 27.9-acre gentleman’s farm.”

Mr. Schantz and the Planning Board’s attorney, Tiffany Scarlato, said that the applicant was not guilty of segmentation because the reason they had to undergo a site-plan review in the first place was to prepare for the future subdivision of the parcel.

“The site plan application is to ensure that a future subdivision will be designed properly,” Mr. Schantz said.

Yet at a public hearing for the application on August 19, members of the Planning Board and many neighbors expressed so much concern about the future subdivision that the applicant’s attorney, Mary Jane Asato, had conceded that she would advise her client to submit to the Planning Board a subdivision plan for the 40 acres.

Ms. Asato did not subsequently submit such a subdivision plan and so, five members of the board concluded that the current site plan application did not ensure the potential for a future subdivision that would meet their approval. Board members Bob Schaeffer, who is a resident of Wainscott and the lead board member for the application, and Patrick Schutte voted on Wednesday to approve the application.

Mr. Schantz said that site plan standards ask the Planning Board to ensure that one, public views are protected, two, that development on farmland is compatible with surroundings, and three, that the board strives to protect large, contiguous pieces of agricultural land.

Board members expressed concern that the application didn’t meet these standards, especially considering the lot’s farmland, its location next to other farmland lots and the type of houses in the area. Subdivisions of two other large parcels in the area, the Osborn and Hand properties, had been designed as cluster subdivisions.

Considering a future subdivision, the yield of the 40 acres is eight lots, Ms. Overby said, and 70 percent of the land would have to be preserved.

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good job
By deKooning (97), southampton on Oct 4, 09 10:28 PM
its about time the town stopped some of these huge "homes" from going up.
By chelsealizw (15), East Hampton on Oct 5, 09 11:44 AM
Finally !!
By saggguy (20), SAGAPONACK on Feb 25, 10 7:27 AM