Nix a Second Story on Dunes Beachfront

A request from the owners of one of the last undeveloped beachfront parcels on Marine Boulevard in Amagansett to add a second story to an already approved one-story residence was denied on Dec. 13, at the year’s final meeting of the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals.

Much of the property at 161 Marine Boulevard is duneland, where a building setback of 100 feet is normally required. In April 2012, the owners, a limited liability company called Pandion, received approval to construct a house with decking about 40 feet from the dune crest. Both the East Hampton Town Planning Department and the town trustees opposed the application, and none of the members who voted to approve it are still on the zoning board.

The applicants were hoping to modify the 2012 decision without having to go through another public hearing.

In a memo dated Dec. 5, Brian Frank, the town’s chief environmental analyst, told board members that they should look to the wording of the 2012 approval, particularly the sections of it regarding Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations. The decision, written by the then-attorney to the board, Robert Connelly, noted in particular that “the current FEMA requirements preclude the construction of a two-story residence on the subject parcel.”

The 2012 board had wrestled with the location of the house, wondering if moving it about eight feet closer to Marine Boulevard would be beneficial. It ended up siding with the applicant’s argument that such a move would create the need for the kind of septic system not approved by Suffolk County.

Now, however, according to Mr. Frank, Pandion seeks to move the house seven feet closer to the road, while increasing building coverage from 2,202 square feet to 2,432 square feet, and total lot coverage from 4,726 square feet to 5,374. “There are a number of inconsistencies and apparent contradictions with the modification and the board’s [original] determination,” he concluded.

Board members agreed, voting 4-0 to reject the request. David Lys had to leave the meeting before the vote was taken. Cate Rogers summed up the feeling of the board, saying the requested modification was “too contrary” to the original approval.

One problem the board is likely to take on in the new year is the practice by landowners of getting approvals for variances or special permits but failing to act on them, and then requesting extensions. Several such requests were before the board that night. One, by a Montauk man, Thomas Muse, involved an approval granted 14 years ago, a point Roy Dalene questioned.

The problem, board members agreed, is that while zoning laws change over the years, approvals have been treated as if they last forever. John Whelan, the chairman, gave the example of swimming pools, where setback laws have changed with the passing of time.

The board did okay Mr. Muse’s request, but Mr. Whelan said he would start to flag aging applications for extensions of time to get building permits and certificates of occupancy. Elizabeth Baldwin, the attorney to the board, encouraged members to discuss the matter in the new year.