Sag Harbor Zoning Board Of Appeals Not Keen To Approve Balcony Retroactively - 27 East


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Sag Harbor Zoning Board Of Appeals Not Keen To Approve Balcony Retroactively

Brendan J. OReilly on Dec 22, 2020

The Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals heard a plea, again, from a homeowner seeking retroactive approval for a second-story balcony that was built without a permit — and the board was still not willing to give it. At the same December 15 meeting, a separate application involving a second-story deck built without a valid permit was withdrawn following the contractor’s arrest.

60 Hempstead Street

The owners of 60 Hempstead Street are seeking the ZBA’s approval for a second-story balcony that was built without a permit, after being told once before that the board was not inclined to approve a balcony that exceeds the permissible lot coverage.

The balcony and two patios that are the subject of the variance application bring the total lot coverage at 60 Hempstead Street up to 28.6 percent, while 25 percent is the maximum permissible lot coverage. The overage amounts to 331 square feet, or 14.4 percent more than the maximum. Additionally, a patio is just 7.6 feet from the property line where a 15-foot setback is required.

This time, the applicants, Jason Schechter and Michelle Wallach, came with a local attorney they hired, Dennis Downes, to make their case for them.

“The board gave the applicant the indication that we did not understand why there needed to be any variances at all,” Chairman Tim McGuire said. “You reduce the patios and you either reduce or eliminate that balcony, and you won’t need variances, and that’s what the board recommended.”

Mr. Downes said they would like to resolve the patio lot coverage issue by replacing portions of patio with pea gravel, which would not count in the lot coverage. Regarding the balcony, he said it’s off the master bedroom and does not look down on any other property.

“We’ll do this again, but we already indicated to [the owner] that it was not acceptable,” Mr. McGuire told Mr. Downes. “He was going to go away, and now he’s employed you, and we’re back where we were to begin with.”

Mr. Downes argued that the amount of space the balcony occupies is insignificant. “It’s de minimis as far as the lot coverage is concerned for the balcony, and it’s just a balcony that can’t be used for parties or anything,” he said. “It’s for a couple to come out of their master bedroom, sit down and have a coffee in the morning.”

Board member Scott Baker echoed Mr. McGuire’s suggestion that the size of the balcony be reduced so Zoning Board of Appeals approval becomes unnecessary.

“We had an abutting owner who did not want to be looked down upon from the balcony, and we ask you to make this a variance-free application,” board member Susan Mead said. “It’s really that simple.”

Mr. Downes said photos show that vegetation blocks the view into any yard and that the owners are willing to install lattice for increased privacy.

Ms. Mead raised another board concern, which is that the members do not want to set a precedent by approving this application.

“There are plenty of precedents for second-story balconies in the village, so I think the horse is out of the barn on that one,” Mr. Downes retorted.

Mr. Schechter implored the board to allow the balcony, considering “it’s physically impossible from the deck to see into the yard.”

The board was not persuaded.

“We want to get the lot coverage back to 25 percent, where it’s supposed to be,” Mr. McGuire said. “You built a balcony without a permit, and now you don’t want to do anything else with it.”

Mr. Schechter said a compliant second-story deck would be only 6 feet by 6 feet.

Mr. Downes agreed to entertain the board’s suggestions and be in touch with what they come up with.

The matter was adjourned.

8 Dartmouth Road

On the heels of his contractor’s felony arrest in November, the owner of 8 Dartmouth Road has withdrawn his application to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance to allow a second-story deck that has already been mostly built to stay.

A stop-worker order was issued on June 10 for failure to obtain a building permit.

The owner, Joe Apprendi, had previously told the board that he believed he had a valid building permit for the project. It came out later that Building Inspector Thomas Preiato identified the permit as a forgery and informed Sag Harbor Village Police. On November 18, police charged the contractor, Benco Construction owner Patrick G. Bentivegna of Bohemia, with criminal possession of a forged instrument and said he had presented a building permit that was instead issued to a separate project on West Water Street.

The deck requires a variance because it is within 14 feet of the rear property line, where a 30-foot setback is required. At the board’s November meeting, Mr. McGuire said he is hesitant to set a precedent of granting setback relief of more than 50 percent.

At the December meeting, Mr. McGuire said the applicant asked that the application be withdrawn without prejudice — that means the application may be submitted again later. The board approved, unanimously.

71 Franklin Avenue

The Zoning Board of Appeals signed off on variances for 71 Franklin Avenue, a property where a couple of missteps have led to delays for a family seeking to build a new home and move in quickly.

The project previously had approval, but a couple of issues became apparent and a stop-work order was issued. It was also affected by the state shutdown of the construction industry in spring to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A house that was supposed to be partially razed was completely demolished instead, and a permitted pool house was built in the wrong spot, which brought it too close to the neighbor’s property.

Now, the pool house will be removed and rebuilt in the correct spot. The board also signed off on a 1,685-cubic-foot pyramid variance for the main dwelling — Mr. McGuire noted that a variance was previously issued for an even greater volume. “The variance that we already granted has been reduced,” he said.

The chairman added that the foundation for the erroneously placed pool house will be removed, and a screening and planting plan is in place.

The owners, Veronique Hubert and Clive Wood, agreed to remove that pool house as soon as possible — by April 1 — to assuage the concerns of the affected neighbors.

The board informally approved the application and instructed the board attorney to draft a formal approval.

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