99 Problems, and a Few Next Door

Jay-Z, Beyoncé could lose view to project by noted architect Richard Meier
Add this to Jay-Z’s 99 problems.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who bought a house Briar Patch Road in East Hampton last year, object to a house and swimming pool planned on an adjacent property that their attorney says will block their view of the preserved field that both properties abut. David E. Rattray

Add this to Jay-Z’s 99 problems. 

The rapper and businessman, whose 2004 song by the same name was ranked number two in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 100 songs of the 2000s, was recently targeted by President Trump on Twitter; he left Sunday’s Grammy Awards ceremony empty-handed despite eight nominations, and he and his wife, the singer Beyoncé Knowles, publicly acknowledged marital discord on their respective albums “4:44” and “Lemonade.” 

So the potential loss of the vista from the East Hampton house for which they paid a reported $25.9 million last year might seem minor by comparison. Nevertheless, the couple have hired an attorney to voice their objections to a neighbor’s plan to build a house and pool that they fear could block the couple’s view of an open field from their house at 81 Briar Patch Road. 

The neighbor is Ana Meier, and she needs variances from the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals for a pool and an 8,325-square-foot house she hopes to build at 18 Jones Creek Lane. Ms. Meier is a furniture designer; the house was designed by her father, the noted architect Richard Meier, who lives nearby.

His was one of several lots created when a prior owner subdivided Fulling Mill Farm, which once stretched from Georgica and Briar Patch Roads to Georgica Pond. When the subdivision was created, the Nature Conservancy was the beneficiary of a 20-plus-acre parcel, now known as the Fulling Mill Farm Preserve. Mr. Meier purchased 18 Jones Creek Lane in 1972 and subsequently transferred it to his daughter. The preserve abuts both Ms. Meier’s property and that owned by Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

A private covenant restricted development within 80 feet of the preserve until 2022, but the Nature Conservancy waived the restriction, according to Ms. Meier’s attorney, Leonard Ackerman, allowing Ms. Meier to build closer to the preserve and farther from the ecologically stressed pond.

At a Jan. 12 hearing on her application, Mr. Ackerman told the zoning board that in balancing Ms. Meier’s needs with the board’s mandate to preserve the character of the neighborhood and protect adjacent property owners from adverse impact, his client’s application should be approved.

Ms. Meier needs variances to allow the pool to be just under 29 feet from the rear-yard setback, about 11 feet shy of the code’s requirement, and to allow the house to include an 18-foot-long enclosed breezeway that will be four feet wide. The code requires that such a feature be at least half as wide as it is long. 

Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Associates, an environmental and land-use consultant also representing Ms. Meier, submitted recent photographs showing a row of Leyland cypress trees planted between Ms. Meier’s property and 81 Briar Patch Road. “Only two small windows” on that house face Ms. Meier’s property, Mr. Warren said, and “the trees almost go up to the ridge of the house.” The photos show, he said, that there has been a “recent, but substantial” effort “to create some privacy” between the properties. He pointed out that under the code, the swimming pool could be built closer to 81 Briar Patch Road, but that would create “more railroad development,” contrary to the architect’s vision. 

Frank Newbold, the board’s chairman, acknowledged that the swimming pool’s proposed location is “farther from the neighbor who’s concerned about their privacy, and also farther from the pond.” Despite the code requirements for breezeways, compliance in this instance would require building an additional 90 square feet, Mr. Newbold said. “It seems counterintuitive that better zoning is served by building something bigger.” 

Nica Strunk, an attorney speaking on behalf of 81 Briar Patch L.L.C. and Noam Gottesman, a businessman and former hedge fund manager who owns 61 Briar Patch Lane, argued that the house and pool could be designed so as not to require variance relief, which should be the board’s preference. 

She agreed with Mr. Ackerman that the private covenant on the nature preserve is outside the zoning board’s purview. However, she pointed out that “the open field essentially extends into this 80 feet that was to be preserved until 2022. The large portion of the house is within that 80 feet. I question whether that is the right design for this property. I also question whether the house needs to be as big as it is.” 

The proposed house will be 616 square feet under the maximum allowable floor area, Mr. Newbold said, while the proposed lot coverage is 6,589 feet less than the maximum allowed. 

“Okay,” Ms. Strunk answered, but the swimming pool’s proposed location “is essentially where my client’s view of the open field has been.” The plantings notwithstanding, “I don’t think there’s any kind of barrier that would completely screen this pool from my client’s view.” There are other conforming locations for it, she insisted. 

She also complained about the “railroad-type design” of the house, suggesting that it was closer to two separate dwellings joined by “this very minimal connection,” the breezeway. “I question whether that is the most appropriate design,” she said. “Perhaps that is the purpose of the zoning code, to avoid that kind of strung-out configuration of a house.”

“But just be aware,” Mr. Newbold said, “if they double the size of the corridor, they would not require a variance.” The applicant’s stated goal is “to build as minimal as possible,” he said, “It’s also probably good to point out the house was designed by Richard Meier. . . . It was not a casually conceived structure.” 

“My concern is my client’s perspective,” Ms. Strunk answered. From the second floor of their house? asked John McGuirk, another board member, pointing out the height of the cypress trees. “I believe the guest house certainly is not fully screened by these plantings,” Ms. Strunk said. The trees, Mr. McGuirk said, “are going to keep growing.” Chris Minardi, his colleague, agreed. “Blocking the view of a pool, which is at ground level, is easy to do with a tree,” he said. 

Ms. Strunk persisted. “If it is feasible to do this without a variance, that needs to be demonstrated, and I don’t think that has been demonstrated.” 

The board was unmoved, and voted to close the hearing. A determination will be announced at a future meeting; the board will reconvene on Feb. 9.