With a regular stream of letters to the editor and three lawsuits filed in State Supreme Court, one woman has become a thorn in the side of the Southampton Village’s Architectural Review Board for the last year.
Evelyn Konrad, a resident of the Rosko Drive subdivision in the village, has made it her personal mission to block the construction of large houses in her neighborhood.
Though her efforts have not yet resulted in her desired result, she says she has no intention of giving up just yet.
Her first case, challenging the ARB’s July 2007 approval of a 3,851-square-foot house at 37 Leos Lane, was dismissed by Justice John Jones Jr. in March. The house was 746 square feet less than the 4,497-square-foot maximum allowed under zoning, but Ms. Konrad argued that it was not in harmony with the nature of the Rosko Place subdivision.
Justice Jones dismissed Ms. Konrad’s petition on the grounds that the ARB and the homeowners, Sandro Seroy and Frank Crivello, were not served with the petition in a “timely and proper” manner.
Russell Dupuy III, Ms. Konrad’s attorney on the 37 Leos Lane case, said that the petition should not have been dismissed over such a technical matter and that the case will likely be brought back to court.
However, the judge also wrote in his decision that Ms. Konrad’s allegations were vague and unsubstantiated and therefore insufficient to make an initial showing that the ARB’s approval included any wrongdoing.
Ms. Seroy and Mr. Crivello’s attorney, John Bennett, said he hopes the dismissal of Ms. Konrad’s first case is a lesson to her. “If you’re going to throw stones at people, you should make sure there’s no stones that they can pick up and throw back at you,” he said.
Despite the case’s dismissal, Ms. Konrad has remained undeterred.
In her second case against the ARB, which is still in court, Ms. Konrad charged the ARB with “steamrolling” through an application to build a house at 81 Leos Lane. She said she wants the house dismantled and reduced to a size she feels conforms with the neighborhood. Besides her aesthetic concerns, she said the large homes springing up in her neighborhood are driving out middle-class homeowners by increasing property taxes.
She filed a third case against the ARB in April. In the newest case—challenging the approval of 17 Adams Lane—Ms. Konrad not only wants the ARB’s decision annulled, but she is also requesting that a state justice declare the village’s notice requirements insufficient and unlawful.
Because Rosko Place is a subdivision, what happens to one lot effects everyone, she said. She argues that when the ARB holds a public hearing on a property in the neighborhood, every homeowner should receive written notice, not just the adjacent property owners. She also takes issue with Southampton Village’s zoning laws, which, she says, permit overbuilding in violation of the village’s master plan.
Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said the notice requirements are in line with what other municipalities have, and that the zoning laws are the most restrictive laws on building Southampton has ever had in place for smaller properties.
“No matter what we do with zoning, it’s never going to be good enough for her,” he said. “The reality is, the people have a right to build a home, and we as a legislative body, have a right to determine house size.”
In November 2007, the New York State Supreme Court overturned an ARB decision that limited the size of a house on Post Lane. The court said the ARB could not restrict the size of a house as long as it fell within zoning constraints.
With some individuals arguing for the right to build bigger houses and others arguing against them, ARB Chairman Curtis Highsmith said the board is put into a difficult position.
“We can’t make the entire community happy. We have a responsibility as a board, and we obviously take that responsibility seriously,” Mr. Highsmith said. He added that while he could not discuss the specifics of pending litigation, the board has followed the law.
“We enforce our own code, but we don’t have the right to make laws,” he said.