Old Building Appovals Bedevil Owners

The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals turned down three applications on Tuesday.

Carter Burwell, a composer of cinema scores, and his wife, Christine Sciulli, an artist, were rejected for the second time since 2013 in an attempt to expand their house at 39 Marine Boulevard in Amagansett and to add an accessory structure to the property as a working studio for Mr. Burwell.

The problem was not so much the accessory structure, which might well have passed on its own, but the 971-square-foot addition. A special permit was needed to allow the work to be done on land adjacent to bluffs and the beach. The difficulty for the board was that the house, on a three-quarter acre property, is not so much adjacent to the bluff as on it. “It is built on a primary dune,” David Lys said. “It is a large dwelling,” Cate Rogers said of the 3,149-square foot three-story residence. “If we were looking at it as a new application, we would pull the whole thing closer to Marine Boulevard,” Roy Dalene said.

The house’s history also troubled Mr. Dalene, particularly the presence of a third floor, normally illegal in East Hampton, which was legalized through a certificate of occupancy in 2000. Though the proposed addition was smaller than the 1,191 square feet requested in 2013, members agreed, by a 5-0 vote, that the plan was still too aggressive.

Another third floor, this time on a West Lake Drive, Montauk, house owned by Michael Walrath, was the topic of the next discussion. The property, a parcel of a little under five acres, was approved in 2012 for an 8,423-square-foot house with a mezzanine, which at some point became a full third floor. Mr. Walrath, an Internet entrepreneur who sold Right Media to Yahoo for $850 million in 2007, was hoping to use the floor as a gym.

Interviewed earlier this year, he said that his builders had followed approvals from the town’s Building Department. John Whelan, chairman of the zoning board, agreed, but not happily. “They had a building permit. It clearly should never have been permitted,” Mr. Whelan said. “This whole building should never have gotten a building permit. I hope this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. Under the current Building Department, I don’t think it will.”

Mr. Dalene said that the builder should, and probably did, know that the third floor was illegal. The attitude seemed to be, “We’ll build it first, then go for approval,” he said.

Members expressed concern about setting a precedent if they allowed a third floor to be legalized.

The board recognized that Mr. Walrath was offering the town a lot in return for the third floor, as well as promising not to split the property in half, as he could by right do since it was previously subdivided. Members also noted that the architectural review board had approved the height of the house. None of that, however, was enough to forestall a 5-0 vote against okaying a third-floor addition.

The final denial also involved something already built, a 714-square-foot slate patio and walkway installed without special permit approval at 95 Northwest Landing Road in East Hampton. The parcel is about a third of an acre and has a recently built 1,528-square-foot house on it. A permit for the patio was required because the site is adjacent to wetlands. A variance of 83 feet to allow the patio and walkway to remain just 17 feet from wetlands, when 100 feet are required, was also requested.

The patio was built over the septic system, board members noted.

This property had the board divided. In the end, members voted 3-2 to deny the request for the permit. Mr. Lys called it a “slippery slope” for the board to start allowing structures over septic systems. “I don’t want to make this property any more nonconforming,” he said. Ms. Rogers cautioned against creating situations where “hard surface runoff” flows into wetlands, and in this case, ultimately, Northwest Creek.

Both voted with Mr. Whelan against the application. Mr. Dalene and Lee White were in the minority as it was turned down.