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The Right Response

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:14

Members of the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals had had enough. Late last month, they vetoed a request from the owner of a Georgica Pond-front house to legalize a number of changes that had taken place without the board’s okay. Harry Macklowe, his lawyer admitted, expanded patios, built up retaining walls, and installed a pergola, without approval, and all were in violation of the required setback form wetlands. In addition, he had neglected to replant native vegetation after clearing phragmites from the shoreline — a board condition in an earlier request, a village official said.

Going further, the zoning board issued a stern “No” to Mr. Macklowe’s lawyer when he asked that it revisit the matter at this month’s meeting. Lys Marigold, the board chairwoman, refused, she said, to play along, and “take two feet of this, and three feet off that,” which had been frequent until recently — a practice that blurred the line between applicants and officials and effectively shut the public out of the process. In the past, by the time a problematic project came up for a vote, it could be nothing like the one initially proposed — alarmingly without public notice.

To Mr. Macklowe, the zoning board said go away and come back with a reasonable request to begin anew when you are ready, effectively giving him and other property owners and their representatives fair warning that village laws and open meetings rules will be followed. This is how it should be.

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