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Lily Pond Lane Construction Decision Is Delayed

Thu, 04/21/2022 - 10:14

A project at 33 Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton Village, with a 15-year history of court battles and angry neighbors, and tens of millions of dollars at stake, may have met its match in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bulgin & Associates, the construction manager for the project, has asked the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals for an extension of its coastal erosion hazard area permit, arguing that they were unable to complete the work on time due to circumstances beyond their control; “specifically, the lasting impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the construction industry.” Suffolk County Health Department input was delayed for months, they said, and both skilled labor and materials were in short supply.

The existing permit, which has now expired, was granted in March 2021, authorizing the construction of additions and alterations to the existing residence, the construction of a screened porch, and accessory improvements. The Z.B.A. heard the appeal for an extension at its April 8 meeting.

The attorney Leonard Ackerman, representing Norman and Helene Stark, the owners of 33 Lily Pond, told the board that “the coastal erosion law that we have, has a very severe and short fuse with respect to its expiration date or sunset provisions. One year to obtain and develop the plans and then go back to get a building permit, in our case, took us almost a year to do all that.”

The Building Department will not grant his clients a construction permit until they have an extension of the coastal erosion hazard area permit in hand, Mr. Ackerman said.

“When we were granting this permit,” said Phil O’Connell, chairing the meeting in the absence of John McGuirk, “it was presented that the family needed the additional space, and now it’s for sale; perhaps even under contract.”

“That’s factually not correct,” said Mr. Ackerman. “The family went to Israel for a family event. Both Mr. and Mrs. Stark came down with Covid, and as of this morning when I spoke with them, they’re intent on not returning to the U.S., and staying in Israel, primarily where their family is located. The house has not been sold, and is not under contract.”

“They’re going to offer the house for sale,” he acknowledged. “But they don’t even have a building permit to start construction yet. Until and unless this is granted, they can’t commence construction, and if the house is sold, any buyer of this house will probably come in and want to do a different project.”

Several local real estate websites show that the house was originally listed for sale in August 2021 for $64 million. The price was reduced in November, to $55 million.

Joe Rose, a board member, said there were some nonconforming items within the “dune land” that are not permitted. “Their removal is not constrained by Covid. The lights, and things that should be removed — I have no problem with the extension of the permit, but it would make a lot of sense to remove the things that need to be removed. They should not have been there in the first place — and we shouldn’t have to wait years and years to make that happen.”

Attached to the March 2021 permit was language requiring the Starks to “revegetate the proposed buffer as depicted, with American Beach Grass,” and requiring “any structures within the conservation easement area and on the property as depicted to be removed prior to the granting of a Certificate of Occupancy.”

Mr. Ackerman asked Thomas Lawrence of the Bulgin firm, a former code enforcement officer for the village, whether the items in the dune land were covered by the building permit. “Yes,” said Mr. Lawrence. “All the conditions stipulated in the Z.B.A. approval are part of the building permit application.”

“Does it require a building permit to remove a violation?” asked Mr. Rose.

“I think it does,” said Mr. Ackerman. “They’re in coastal erosion. That all needs a prior approval. You can’t just go in there and whack it out of there and remove it. It has to be done with construction protocol.”

Mr. Rose said he would refer the question to code enforcement, but that as soon as possible, the things that should be removed needed to be removed.

“I understand,” said Mr. Ackerman.

At their next meeting, on May 13, zoning board members are expected to determine the outcome of the appeal.

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