Proposed Wolffer Subdivision May Be Back At Square One - 27 East

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Proposed Wolffer Subdivision May Be Back At Square One

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author on Nov 10, 2015

Plans for a proposed six-lot subdivision at the Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack, which had been hashed out over many months, might now go back to square one.

At a Sagaponack Village Board meeting on Monday, the property owners raised concerns about stipulations in a pre-application report. Max Rohn and Anthony Alexandre—who are married to Joanna and Georgina Wölffer—requested that the board reconsider several key points, in particular a merging of the ownership of the four house lots into two pairs of lots, with each pair having shared ownership.

Not linking the lots in two pairs would make the situation more financially sustainable for future generations who own the property, said the two men, who have been represented by John Whelan of Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects in Bridgehampton at previous meetings.

Sagaponack Village Mayor Don Louchheim replied that it was a shame the changes were being proposed so late in the process, saying the subdivision has been before the board for the past year and discussed for several years before that. He added that if the owners choose to move forward, they would have to go back to the beginning of the review process, including obtaining new State Environmental Quality Review Act approvals.

“The intention, I know, has been to create a unique, village-like area that is not the standard McMansion type of housing development,” Mr. Rohn told the board. “And I want to respect and continue with the look and feel and make no changes to what has been decided on the lots, the lot sizes, the height restrictions—everything that has been proposed as far as how the property will look.”

Under the current proposal, the developers will divide approximately 12 acres on Sagg Road into six lots. One lot already has commercial buildings on it, one will remain as 6 acres of open space, and the remaining four lots will be developed for single-family homes.

The development was finally moving along after the property owners and Sagaponack Village officials went back and forth for years about where to locate the houses. The Wölffer family wanted to put them on the eastern end of the property, bordering a horse farm and rows of the Wölffer vineyards. The village, however, believed the houses would be less visible on the west side of the property.

Finally, village officials agreed earlier this year to allow the property owners to develop the east portion of the property, with the house pairing agreement in place as a way to minimize the size of the homes that were most visible. Under the agreement, two of the lots would be smaller—40,000 square feet and 47,000 square feet. The larger lots would each be 58,000 square feet. The owners of each of the larger lots would own a 51-percent stake in one of the smaller lots, meaning the smaller lots could not be sold individually and potentially expanded, but property taxes would be lower than for separately owned lots.

“While this is in line with the intended use of the property in the short term, I have reservations of what would happen with this ownership pairing down the line,” Mr. Rohn said. “Without being able to sell, the option would be to rent it out, or try to maintain it while finding someone else to live in it. But I don’t see how that would work in the long term. We want to be able to have the ability to resell the other property if need be.”

If the applicants change their mind about the pairing, the village will reopen discussions about where the houses should be located. “The concept of pairing was proposed by your representatives, not by us,” Mr. Louchheim said. “It is unfortunate that you have decided to come here at the end of this, at the end of the trail rather than the beginning.”

The applicants also want to eliminate what they called an unnecessary easement connecting the properties to the Wölffer stables, with Mr. Rohn saying there are already roads in place to connect them. He also wants to eliminate restrictions that would require the open space to be farmed, saying that while the owners intend to plant vineyards there, it would not be fair to require future owners to replant row crops or vineyards.

Finally, the current wording of the agreement would prohibit putting up storage buildings in the agricultural areas, and the owners said they hope to have the same agricultural rights as any other Sagaponack property owner.

It is unclear if the owners, currently a trust for the estate of Christian Wölffer, will press for the four changes, setting the project back.

“This was all part of the agreement between your representatives and this board over discussions over the past year,” Mr. Louchheim said. “They were encapsulated—and if you haven’t read it, perhaps you should—in the pre-application report for his subdivision, where it was all spelled out. So you are welcome to be here, but we are back at square one, and that is fine with us.”

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