Sag Harbor Zoning Board Of Appeals Hears Controversial Applications - 27 East

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Sag Harbor Zoning Board Of Appeals Hears Controversial Applications

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Patti Weinberg stands in her backyard with the neighbor's second-story deck at 8 Dartmouth Road behind her.

Patti Weinberg stands in her backyard with the neighbor's second-story deck at 8 Dartmouth Road behind her.

Brendan J. OReilly on Nov 23, 2020

The Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals addressed a second-story deck apparently built without a real permit, a pool house that was built too close to the property line, and plans for a large house to get slightly larger at its Tuesday, November 17, virtual meeting.

These three applications, out of the many aired that night, drew the most concern and controversy. In the case of the second-story deck, an arrest for filing a forged building permit came the day following the meeting.

8 Dartmouth Road

At 8 Dartmouth Road, construction of a second-story deck with stairs leading down to an existing first-story deck was halted when the building permit was called into question. The homeowner is now asking the zoning board to allow him to keep and complete the second-story deck, which is within 14 feet of the rear property line, where a setback of 30 feet is required.

The board was not apt at the November 17 meeting to retroactively give the owner the variance the project needs.

“We did absolutely believe we had a permit,” owner Joe Apprendi told the board. “I have a copy of that permit. Whether it was issued incorrectly or faulty, I apologize for that.”

The confusion over the permit was clarified days later when Sag Harbor Village Police announced an arrest. On Wednesday, November 18, police arrested the Bohemia contractor of the Dartmouth Road project, Patrick G. Bentivegna, on a felony charge and accused him of submitting a forged permit to obtain a variance.

Regardless of the permit controversy, the question to the board remained whether granting setback relief for the deck is appropriate.

“The setback is supposed to be 30 feet. It needs a variance of more than 50 percent of that, and that’s a precedent that at least I, for one, am very hesitant to set,” Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Tim McGuire said.

There had been a setback variance granted for the property in 2012 for a ground-floor deck, at 14.9 feet.

Elizabeth Vail, the attorney to the zoning board, noted the that 2012 variance does not change the setback as far as the present application is concerned. “You don’t create a new setback just because you’ve already been granted a variance,” she said. “The setback is 30 feet.”

Mr. McGuire added, “A balcony is different than a ground-floor porch.”

Scott Frances, whose yard abuts the rear yard of 8 Dartmouth Road, addressed the board and presented photographs and architectural drawings, the latter of which he had commissioned.

Mr. Frances argued that the deck is more obtrusive than it is being made out to be and may also violate the allowable building pyramid by more than the application shows.

“This has presented a very large burden on us, both cost-wise and time-wise,” Mr. Frances said. “And for us to have to disprove what is being presented as alternative facts, it’s just too much. It just has to end. We’re hopeful that there won’t be a continuance tonight and that this will be dead in the water.”

He went on to ask: “What is the cure for this? Because we’re living with this. We lived through the building of it. We’re living with it over our heads.” He said he’s told, “It doesn’t loom over us, it’s not visible from our house, it won’t create noise,” and he disputes all of those arguments.

Mr. Frances also expressed concern that the proposed staircase to the second-story deck will mean lots of foot traffic from the driveway to the area near their shared property line.

Mr. Apprendi’s attorney, Brian DeSesa, refuted what Mr. Frances presented concerning setbacks and the building pyramid.

“I believe them to be false based on the information we were provided by surveyors and architects,” Mr. DeSesa said.

Mr. Apprendi said that the last thing he would do is begin work without a permit after a major investment on a property in Sag Harbor.

He said that the proposed second-story deck is just so people can pass by and get to the stairs — seats won’t fit there and there is nothing to stand and look at, he insisted. But it would allow someone to quickly get to the pool, where his children swim, and will serve as a fire exit.

He described the project as “an absolute nightmare” that’s been going on for nine months. “It’s painful that we’re dealing with this as well,” he said. “We wanted it to go smoothly”

The board agreed, at Mr. DeSesa’s request, to adjourn the matter to its December 15 meeting.

During a phone interview, Mr. Frances reiterated what he had said at the meeting: He finds it unfair that if an applicant puts out false information, an “enormous burden” shifts to the neighbors to disprove it. “We couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer for this, so we put in all the time,” he said.

71 Franklin Avenue

At 71 Franklin Avenue, the homeowners are looking for new variances after the house there was razed without permission and a new pool house was built in the wrong spot. The homeowners had received variances for the project a year ago as well as permission to renovate the house that stood there. But, the zoning board meeting agenda stated, “Thereafter applicant demolished the house instead of renovating same and constructed the pool house in the wrong location.” Construction on a new house had begun but a stop-work order was issued.

The owners, Veronique Hubert and Clive Wood, told the board that they would like direction on a path forward so they can protect the investment — framing is up but unprotected for winter — and so they can move in as soon as possible.

Board member Susan Mead pointed out that the address is in the village’s historic district. “The house was demolished when, in fact, what was approved from simply a renovation plan.”

Ms. Hubert noted that the house was not considered a contributing structure.

Because it was not deemed to be contributing to the historic district, it did not have the same protections as historic homes.

Ms. Hubert said that they were entitled to demolish three sides of the house while retaining one wall and the foundation. She characterized the full demolition as a misunderstanding.

“We previously granted this variance,” Mr. McGuire said. “What’s come up now actually reduces slightly the pyramid variance that we already granted. It’s not a contributing house. It shouldn’t have been torn down without a permit, but it was. I personally don’t see what our problem is in granting this variance.”

Ms. Vail noted that the board previously granted relief for a second-story addition and to reconstruct a shed into a pool house.

Russell Kratoville and Tiffany Scarlato, the couple who live next door, addressed the board concerning the pool house and to ask for a landscaping plan to screen the property border.

Ms. Scarlato said she realized something was wrong as soon as the framing of the pool house began. She called Village Building Inspector Tom Preiato who confirmed that the structure was too close to the property line. Ms. Scarlato also estimated that the ridge of the pool house is 3 feet high, and she said a stockade fence was put up illegally.

The applicants’ architect, Thomas Pedrazzi, said that the pool house will be removed and rebuilt in the proper place. But the new proposal calls for allowing the foundation that was originally poured for the pool house to stay. Mr. Pedrazzi suggested that it could be a stone patio, at ground level.

This was not satisfactory to Ms. Scarlato, who herself is an attorney who appears at zoning board meetings frequently on behalf of clients. She said she has had to come before the board for things as simple as window wells that are too close to property lines. “I’m not sure how this applicant particularly is permitted to build some type of foundation and then build some type of bridge or cover over that,” she added.

While Mr. Pedrazzi said the foundation is “just a slab,” members of the board said it is considered a structure below grade.

Mr. Kratoville said that he and his wife are not saying that the applicants need to start over. “Technically, I guess, they probably should,” he continued. “They should actually start with zero building permit. They should start right from the start because essentially they’re starting with nothing because they tore the whole house down. We’re not asking for that.”

But he does want the pool house moved and the foundation removed. “You can’t leave a foundation because you know what that leads to,” he said. “You leave concrete there, you know what comes next.”

Mr. Pedrazzi pushed back on the suggestion that anything illegal has occurred.

“It’s going to be reconstructed as it was approved,” he said of the pool house. “There’s nothing illegal going on here. … It was a mistake. The builder had the wrong property line. … He did not have the map flagged correctly. It was probably because he did not have the surveyor out to stake it.”

Mr. Wood said they have no ulterior motive to build something that was not approved. “We sincerely just want to do this the right way and get this finished,” he told the board.

The chairman retorted, “We granted these variances a year ago, so it’s not our fault that you’re back now.”

Mr. Wood explained it was not his intention to suggest that the board is responsible, but that he wants clear direction to move forward.

The matter was adjourned to the board’s next meeting.

5 Green Street

A two-story, 6,128-square-foot home at 5 Green Street was substantially reconstructed in 2008 and now is the subject of an application for two one-story additions and one two-story addition.

The additions require setback relief, sky plane relief, and coverage relief.

The proposal would increase the total lot coverage from 28.4 percent to 29.4 percent and the building coverage from 20.1 percent to 25.3 percent.

Mr. McGuire pointed out that increasing the building coverage from 20.1 percent to 25.3 percent may be a change of only 5.2 percentage points, but it is an increase in lot coverage of about 26 percent.

“To me, this is a very small lot that is pretty built out,” he said. “... While these bumpouts on either side of the house seem fairly modest, because the lot is so small, as it is, and the house is so large, I don’t think they really are that modest.”

Ms. Mead said she is concerned about neighbors on either side of the property and how they would be impacted.

“Would you be more in favor is we eliminated the second-story portion of it, in terms of visibility, or is that not the issue?” asked the applicant’s architect, Russell Riccardi.

“That doesn’t remedy the lot coverage issue,” Ms. Mead said.

The application was adjourned.

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