Dune House Is Debated

Jeffrey Locker’s dream house is almost finished. It is on what the Town of East Hampton describes as pristine dunes on Cranberry Hole Road in Amagansett, abutting Napeague State Park on one side, with Gardiner’s Bay a stone’s throw away. Now, his brother and sister-in-law, Keith and Stacy Locker, want to follow suit. 

Jeffrey Locker obtained approval for his house in a split East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals decision less than three years ago, in June 2015. At the hearing that preceded the decision, the East Hampton Town Planning Department had expressed its opposition, and it did so again at an April 17 Z.B.A. hearing on the new Locker application.

The application is for a 4,038-square-foot house with a covered porch, a 579-square-foot detached garage, 471 square feet of decking, and a small swimming pool. Like Jeffrey Locker’s property, the 1.7-acre parcel is severely constrained by scenic easements, creating a somewhat unusual building envelope. Almost all of the square footage is on the first floor, which is 3,549 square feet, and the house is to be accessed by a common driveway serving both brothers.

“This parcel contains protected natural features and needs to be assessed accordingly,” Brian Frank, the town’s chief environmentalist, wrote in a memo to the board regarding the new proposal. “The house is positioned close to the minimum distance allowed for structures near scenic easements. The proposed clearing line is right up against the scenic easement lines and the Planning Department feels that this line is unrealistic,” he wrote. “It is the Planning Department’s opinion that this project is sprawling. It is not consolidated in a way which minimizes the diminishment of the natural features. An alternate design of a two-story residence with an attached garage could result in a much smaller footprint and less impact on the protected dunes and beach vegetation.”

There is only one member left from the board that approved Jeffrey Locker’s application. However, John Whelan, the chairman of the Z.B.A., had been one of the members who voted against approval in the 3-to-2 decision. Mr. Whelan clearly was skeptical of the new proposal, with other board members questioning the design as well. Mr. Frank told the board on April 17 that the members of the board should not feel obligated by precedent.

At the hearing, Carl Irace, the attorney representing both brothers, disagreed with Mr. Frank’s idea that square footage should be added to the second floor. That would leave the house looming over the dunes, he said, as opposed to being nestled within them. A larger second story also would decrease the sunlight for the vegetation the town is trying to protect, he said, while the design submitted “embraces the protected features.” 

Mr. Frank responded by saying he had never seen a second floor destroy vegetation. 

Keith Locker also addressed the board. “I spent my first 35 years living in the dunes in Westhampton, the next 35 living in the dunes in Southampton.” He and his wife want to spend the next 35 years living in and protecting the dunes in Amagansett, he said. Mr. Frank responded by saying that if the natural features of the dunes were disturbed, what makes them unique would be destroyed. 

Mr. Irace said Tuesday that the proposal is locked in stone. “We appreciate the opportunity to come to the board directly for its feedback on our proposal. We look forward to using the board’s feedback to move forward toward an approval,” he said.