Lion Head Neighbors Object to Large House Plan

The proposed merger of two lots on Isle of Wight Road in the Lion Head Beach area of Springs and the expansion an existing residence on one of the lots drew a crowd of 15 or 20 neighbors who argued against it at an East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing on Dec. 5. 

John and Patricia Dankowitz have an existing 2,600-square-foot house on the southern of the lots they want to merge, while the northern lot is undeveloped. They would like to expand the existing residence by 1,600 square feet after the lots are merged and to construct a 375-square-foot swimming pool, a 200-square-foot pool house, a slate patio, and a walkway to the beach at Hog Creek. They also plan to install a new septic system.

To complete this project on what would be a new 52,570-square-foot parcel, the Dankowitzes need a permit to build in an area containing tidal wetlands and bluffs, and eight variances for the pool, pool house, and the house itself. Some of the variances are minor. For example, they would like the house to be built 95 feet from tidal wetlands when the town code calls for 100 feet. The variances for the distance of the pool, pool house, and pool equipment from the bluff crest are slightly larger, ranging from 12.4 percent to 15.5 of the 100-foot setback required by code. The largest variances sought are a 25-percent reduction from wetlands for the pool house’s sanitary system and a 21.5-percent reduction from the required side-yard setback for the expanded residence.

David Kirst of Matthews, Kirst, & Cooley represented the Dankowitz family. He argued that the trade-offs for the town were a new septic system and that merging the lots would reduce density. In 1994 and again in 2009, the Z.B.A. had granted previous owners of the northern lot variances to construct a house there, although it was never built. His clients could build on it, he said, thereby increasing density. 

Tyler Borsack, a town planner, seemed to agree. Variances granted in the past for the undeveloped lot were far more substential than those now being requested, he reasoned. “The Planning Department also believes that the project as a whole would have less of an impact, when taken in conjunction with the mitigation measures, compared to having the northern lot improved with what was approved in 2009,” he said.

The neighbors were not mollified. Alex Miller, who lives at 19 Thanet Way and is the president of the Lion Head Beach Association, though he said he was not speaking in that capacity, said that, if approved, it “would be the largest structure on the western side of Hog Creek, totally out of character with the neighborhood, an affront to current environmental law, and damaging to the future health and safety of Hog Creek and neighboring residents.”

David Buda echoed a point made by several other speakers, that the addition, because of the topography, would, in effect, create a third floor, which is prohibited by the code.

The size of the proposed expanded house also came under scrutiny from the board. “This is a large house for the neighborhood,” Cate Rogers said.  She also said there had been extensive clearing on the properties. There were several issues the board wanted clarified, such as the construction protocol, and whether a proposed 24-inch roof overhang would require an additional variance. Mr. Kirst was given 30 days to provide the board with answers