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To Limit Roof Heights

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 18:55

Hoping to limit the spread of overlarge houses on small residential lots, the East Hampton Village Board pondered new zoning code regulations for roof heights at a meeting last Thursday. 

Ken Collum, a village code enforcement officer who was part of a committee tasked with developing a new code, said homeowners were increasingly building massive houses for economic reasons. “We drive down our lanes and we see the houses, and they’re bigger and bigger because they’re maximizing the dollar value on the property,” he said.

To limit the size of the top one-third of such imposing structures, he said, the board had appointed him, Linda Riley, the village attorney, Billy Hajek, the village planner, and Robert Hefner, the director of historic services, as well as Bruce Siska and Jim Taylor, architects, to develop a code that would regulate the height of roofs on primary residences without infringing on design.

The current code, which Mr. Collum said was difficult to interpret, designates three categories of permitted roof heights based on criteria such as lot size, type of roof (gable, hip, gambrel with dormer windows, etc.), and pitch. The proposed code, which would use one equation to calculate permitted roof heights, seeks to limit the area of low-pitch roofs.

A low-pitch roof would be defined as any roof with a slope of less than seven inches of rise over 12 inches of run. The area of low-pitch roof within nine feet of the maximum roof height permitted per lot size, it states, must be no more than 15 percent of a house’s gross first-floor area.

“If it’s 15 percent or less, then the roof passes muster,” said Mr. Collum. If greater than 15 percent, he said, the owners would have to reduce the height of the roof area or the entire structure.

“We’re not controlling design, but we’re trying to bring the massing down on small lots,” he said.

The measurement would have to be taken from the roof’s outside edge, and the amount indicated on a two-dimensional building plan that provides a bird’s-eye view of the roof. If the new code is approved, architects would be required to tell the building department what percentage of the house has a low-pitch roof.

Calculating an average pitch, by lumping areas that are steeper with those that are lower, would not be allowed, except in the case of a conical or bell roof or dome cap of a tower, which would be calculated as the average of slopes taken at six-inch intervals.

Any area of a low-pitch roof, the proposed code also states, must be set back six feet from a lot line.

The committee also suggested changing another section of the code to make it clear that unenclosed porches and breezeways, as well as screened porches, are not counted as part of a house’s gross floor area, Mr. Collum told the board.

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said a public hearing on the proposed code changes would be held at the board’s next meeting on June 21. Rick Lawler, a trustee, asked Mr. Collum to give a PowerPoint presentation on the changes at the hearing.

In other business, the board approved an operating budget of $22,957,802 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year after holding a public hearing at which no objections were voiced. The only change from the budget presented at the May 17 meeting, said Rebecca Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, was $100,000 that  had been reallocated from capital projects to provide for increased contributions to a pension-like incentive program for volunteer ambulance members.

Mayor Rickenbach introduced David Collins, who has been hired as a superintendent trainee for the Department of Public Works. Mr. Collins will be replacing Scott Fithian, who has been superintendent since 1996 and has worked for the village for 33 years. He will be retiring on June 30. “You have big shoes to fill, David, so just learn from what Mr. Fithian teaches you, it’s all good,” said Mr. Rickenbach.

 At the close of the meeting, Rose Brown, a trustee, thanked the Ladies’ Village Improvement Society for providing the flowers for planters the village recently installed on Newtown Lane and Main Street. “It’s a great example of a public-private partnership,” said Ms. Brown.