Development plans on three parcels irk neighbors in Springs

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A proposal to develop three parcels that front on a pond in the far reaches of Springs was met with concern from some neighbors at an East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals meeting late last month.

Joslin Lions Head LLC, which owns lots 66, 67, and 68 in the Lion Head Beach Association is hoping to get three natural resources special permits from the town in order to build a house on each parcel. The three properties are located between Isle of Wight Road and Pond Lane and border a small pond just south of Gardiner’s Bay.

Five local residents testified they are worried about a variety of issues, ranging from the protection of wildlife and groundwater, to the potential impact on neighboring wells, to compliance with the bylaws of the homeowners’ association.

At a public hearing before the Appeals Board on Tuesday, April 29, Henry Schwatzman, whose property, lot 69, borders lots 67 and 66, said that the area that will be affected by the proposed houses, pools, and septic systems would go far beyond the 1.5 acres encompassed by the three parcels.

“You are not just talking about those three lots, you are talking about a pond in front of it and a private beach in front of that,” Mr. Schwatzman said. “I would hate to see it overdeveloped, and I think that’s what these plans and applications are in the process of doing.”

Joslin Lion Head LLC—which is based in Locust Valley—proposes to build 2,122-, 2,767-, and 3,240-square-foot houses, measured in gross floor area, as well as a deck, pool, and covered porch on all three lots, and a garage on lot 67.

Because each proposed house would be within 150 feet of a wetland, a natural resources special permit from the Appeals Board is required under town code. The three houses would be 100.3, 101.9, and 145.7 feet from the wetlands, which conforms to code requirements.

For lot 68, the owner is seeking a variance to put a sanitary system 145.7 feet from the pond. Town code requires a 150-foot setback from the wetlands sanitary systems.

Town Planner Brian Frank said that the town has recommended that the lots be purchased using money from its Community Preservation Fund, since they are in an environmentally sensitive, high-density area, but he added that the town would need to talk to the property owner about buying the lots. He later said that he did not know if the town had contacted the property owner.

Since the proposals are all slightly different, the Appeals Board conducted public hearings for each plan separately. With five residents getting up repeatedly to speak on each individual proposal, the three hearings together lasted more than three hours.

Mr. Frank asserted that, since none of the proposed houses requires a variance, and all of the proposals include at least an 80-foot vegetative buffer from the water’s edge, the Appeals Board has little room to deny the applications.

“The board’s power to deny these outright … is limited,” Mr. Frank said. “I don’t want to say that you have to approve these applications, but the code says they have to be these minimum distances away, and that’s what they are.”

But Mr. Schwatzman and other neighbors expressed a variety of concerns at the meeting, telling board members that more development in the area could pose problems for wildlife, groundwater, and nearby wells and sanitary systems.

Ellen Dewaal-Vanderham, who identified herself as being “from a Long Island family,” rose repeatedly to the podium to speak about the importance of protecting wild plants in the area. Madeleine Grant, who lives near the proposed development on Thanet Way, mentioned that piping plovers, an endangered bird that is protected through federal and state regulations, have been seen nesting on the beach by the properties.

“As far as this lot is concerned, the applicant is proposing a 90-foot vegetative buffer” to the water’s edge, said Appeals Board member T.J. Calabrese, referring to lot 66 during a public hearing for that parcel. “The next-door neighbor has zero,” he added, referring to an existing house.

Mr. Schwatzman and Howard Persky, another neighbor whose property, lot 65, abuts lot 66, both wondered how proposed locations of the sanitary systems might impact to their own wells and cesspools.

The proposed sanitary system on lot 67 would be within 100 feet of Mr. Schwatzman’s well, which would violate Suffolk County Department of Health standards. Kelly Risotto of the Riverhead company Land Use Ecological Standards, who is representing the applicant, had previously written a Mr. Schwatzman explaining that her client would pay to have his well relocated, which Mr. Schwatzman said he would not agree to.

Without being allowed to move Mr. Schwatzman’s well, Ms. Risotto said, she would have to appear in front of the county health department’s Board of Review and get a variance to place her client’s cesspool within 100 feet of the neighbor’s well.

“In these situations, typically when we go in front of the Board of Review, we will bring the engineer who designed the system,” Ms. Risotto said. “He will do an analysis of the grade to show that the water from the sanitary system will not run toward his well … it is sloped towards the pond, so there will be no impact to his sanitary system.”

Mr. Persky claimed that the surveyor for the project drew his sanitary system at an incorrect location, and that by walking the area, he had determined that a proposed well on lot 66 would be about 50 feet from his cesspool.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m berating you, but we deal with facts,” responded Appeals Board Chairman Phil Gamble, who asked for a survey to verify Mr. Persky’s assertion. “That is not a fact.”

In order to comply with both town code and the bylaws of the Lion Head Beach Association, the applicant still has to make some adjustments to the proposals.

Mr. Gamble pointed out at Tuesday’s meeting that the site plan on lot 67 does not show a driveway leading to a proposed garage. He also noted that the location of the proposed house on the same property would violate the bylaws of the homeowners’ association, since the house is 18.4 feet from the rear yard property line, and the rules mandate that a house cannot be less than 20 feet from the property line.

Anthony Coron, a member of Lion Head Beach Association’s board of directors, told the Appeals Board that the house on lot number 68 would also violate the bylaws of the homeowners’ association. The bylaws mandate that “no building shall be erected on any lot within 40 feet of the line of any road or street,” and the house is closer than 40 feet to the front of the property line.

Mr. Gamble was unsure if that language meant that the house could not be built 40 feet from the property line or 40 feet from the edge of the road, but Mr. Coron argued that language was intended to mean that the homeowner not build within 40 feet of the property line on the side of the property that fronts the street.

Ms. Risotto said that the applications would have to be revised to address some of the issues that were brought up at the meeting, and added that she would consult with an attorney from her company to determine what the bylaws require.

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