‘Shabby to Chic’ Montauk Makeover

Sleek units near Montauket would have private pools, million-dollar views
All four of the small cottages overlooking Fort Pond Bay are to be knocked down to make way for three larger resort units built of steel, glass, and mahogany. T.E. McMorrow

Marc Rowan, the private equities investor who over the past few years bought Duryea’s Dock and a number of other Montauk properties near Fort Pond Bay, has plans in the works for a major overhaul of the complex of cottages next to the Montauket. 

Last week his representatives detailed a proposal to tear down the four cottages at 80 Firestone Road and replace them with three much larger resort cottages, each boasting its own private pool and a share of the cliff-top view of Fort Pond Bay that the Montauket is famous for. 

Built of glass, steel, and mahogany, the flat-roofed units would be “staggered . . . creating sight corridors for everybody,” the architect, Viola Rouhani of Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects, explained to the East Hampton Town Planning Board on Oct. 5. 

The two-bedroom cottages there now were built in 1960 and are just under 400 square feet apiece. Two of the new units would be nearly triple that size, with 803 square feet on the first floor, 396 on the second, and 627-square-foot roof decks, as well as 580-square-foot pool patios. The third would be a 600-square-foot one-bedroom cottage with a 688-square-foot roof deck, and an 850-square-foot pool patio. The proposal also calls for a staircase that would run from the top of the bluff down to the water’s edge.

Although the property is in an area zoned for resort use, Mr. Rowan’s proposal faces several challenges, among them the question of whether the cottages are far enough from the bluff’s edge and where, exactly, the bluff is. According to the town’s Natural Resources Department as well as Brian Frank, the Planning Department’s chief environmental analyst, there is an unusual feature on the property: a bluff crest on Fort Pond Bay that also runs inland, perpendicular to the coast on the property’s western border. 

The town’s building inspector, Ann Glennon, determined in August that Mr. Rowan will need variances from the town’s zoning board of appeals to build the units closer to the perpendicular bluff than allowed by town code. Mr. Rowan’s representatives contend that the natural feature in question is not a bluff. His appeal of the building inspector’s determination will be the subject of a zoning board hearing on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. 

If the board sides with the building inspector, Mr. Rowan will need variances from the Z.B.A. to proceed with his project. If the board agrees with Mr. Rowan, he will not need any variances, according to Andy Hammer, the lawyer representing him. 

The proposal may also conflict with the town code’s standards for resort units, Mr. Frank told the planning board last week. The design appears to meet all but one of the four standards. The maximum square footage per resort unit is capped at 1,200 square feet, and according to the code those units are to be contained in “multiple-unit structures.” The two larger units would come in at 1,199 square feet, but would be stand-alone structures.

However, Mr. Hammer argued because the units would all be connected to the same septic system, they would essentially operate as a single structure. 

“I don’t know how you’re going to make the argument that these are attached,” said Reed Jones, the board’s chairman. All sides agreed that another determination from Ms. Glennon would be needed to resolve this question. 

The three pools on the property present yet another obstacle. Mr. Hammer described them as small “water features,” as opposed to pools. However, Nancy Keeshan, a board member, pointed out that with each being 8 by 28 feet, and 6 and half feet deep, they would make “nice-sized” pools.

Job Potter, another board member, wondered how the modern design would fit in with the neighborhood. “There are small wooden cottages in the area.” 

“I think it is taking it from shabby to chic,” said Diana Weir, another board member, and Ian Calder-Piedmonte, also of the board, said he would rely on the town’s architectural review board on that point. The A.R.B. will take up the exterior of the buildings in the coming weeks. 

“If you ever had a cocktail at the Montauket, it is one of the most beautiful viewsheds out here,” Mr. Hammer said of the property. “That is why the owner wants to make them world-class units.” 

Ms. Weir complimented the project, with its modern nitrogen-reducing septic system, and the decrease in density that will result on the site. “I bet you’re going to get a ton of money for those rentals, especially with each getting their own pool,” she said. 

Still, Ms. Keeshan cautioned that there were “a lot of questions” that need to be answered as the process goes forward.

In addition to the cottage property, which he purchased last year for $2.2 million, and nearby Duryea’s, which he bought the year before along with several surrounding properties for about $7 million, Mr. Rowan also owns Arbor, a restaurant on Fort Pond Road (purchased for $2.7 million), and the Neptune Motel on South Euclid Avenue (bought for almost $3 million), which was used this summer for staff housing.

He also has site plan applications before the planning board for Duryea’s and Arbor. When the latter was Ciao, it was a raucous club with frequent visits from town police investigating noise complaints. Mr. Rowan transformed it into a stylish restaurant with 165 seats, two outdoor patios, an arbor, and an outdoor bar. A public hearing on the restaurant’s site plan is scheduled for Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. 

At Duryea’s, Mr. Rowan had proposed early last year to remove all the structures and replace them with a restaurant with an open deck and a capacity for 353 patrons. After receiving a critical review from the town’s senior planner, JoAnne Pahwul, that application was withdrawn. Ms. Pahwul was concerned about the negative impacts on Fort Pond Bay and Tuthill Road should Mr. Rowan be allowed to use one of the neighboring residential properties for commercial purposes. “The project appears very aggressive, given the sensitive nature of the site,” she had concluded.

While Mr. Rowan’s plans for the exterior of Duryea’s are currently on hold, the interior has been renovated and was open for business this summer as a more high-end version of the lobster house it once was.