Two lots that together comprise 13 acres on Town Lane in Amagansett could become the site for a indoor 20,000-square-foot horseback-riding ring, if their owner is able to get approval from the Town Planning Board.
Billionaire investor Michael Novo-gratz, who owns the two properties through the limited liability corporations Gaby Anna and Gaby Anna II, is seeking a special permit from the Planning Board to build an indoor 100-by-200-foot riding ring with a 3,000-square-foot second floor, a 7,000-square-foot stable, and several storage structures.
In a letter sent to the Planning Board dated March 6, East Hampton attorney Stephen Latham, who is representing Mr. Novogratz, wrote that the new facility could be used to train horses and riders for “Olympic level competition.”
Some Planning Board members described the proposal as “overkill” during a work session on Wednesday, May 7.
“I have only been on this board a year, but this seems excessive and large to me,” said Planning Board member Eileen Catalano.
The riding ring would be more than 11,000 square feet larger than what is now the largest indoor horseback riding ring in the town, a 9,000-square-foot arena at Stony Hill Stables, also on Town Lane. The plan calls for redistributing nearly 15,000 cubic yards of agricultural soil to create rolling berms and make “green roofs”—roofs which are covered in soil and grasses for energy efficiency—and to install 124 light fixtures across the property.
With plans to power the facility with solar heating, conserve and reuse water on site, and build with “recycled and eco-friendly” materials, the designer of the project insisted that the new horse farm would be a “paragon of sustainability,” according to a letter submitted by Matthew Baird, the project’s architect.
“We’re actually generating all the electrical power on site that we’ll need,” Mr. Baird said at Wednesday’s meeting. “In fact, we’ll actually be generating excess power that we’ll sell back to LIPA.”
But Planning Board members balked at certain elements of the proposal. They told Mr. Latham his client should scale down the project by reducing the amount of soil excavation, cutting back on the amount of lighting, and moving some of the proposed storage buildings off one of the two agricultural easements on the property.
The two Novogratz properties currently contain a two-story house and six barns and sheds. One of the two properties is a horse farm formerly owned by former Town Councilman Randy Parsons before he sold it to Mr. Novogratz last year.
Five horses are boarded there all year and four are brought out during the summer, when the Novogratz family comes out from New York.
In a phone interview on Monday, Mr. Latham said the facility was for his daughters and no one would be training for the Olympics at the horse farm. According to town code, Mr. Novogratz needs a special permit from the Planning Board in order to start a new horse farm in a residential zone. He is seeking to keep 14 horses on the two properties, which will be merged if the Planning Board grants approval for the project.
The code describes a horse farm as a business used for breeding, boarding, raising, or training horses, and treats structures used on a horse farm as “agricultural buildings.” Mr. Novogratz would need a variance of almost 20,000 square feet from the Town Zoning Board of Appeals for the project, because the proposed building coverage is 30,820 square feet, which far exceeds the 2 percent limit, or 11,367 square feet in this case, set for an agricultural building in the town code.
If Mr. Novogratz were seeking a special permit for a riding academy, which is defined in the code as a business at which horses are available for hire or where riding instruction is offered to the public, he would be allowed 34,820 square feet of building coverage and would not need a variance.
Mr. Latham said this week that his client wants to obtain a special permit for a horse farm, rather than a riding academy, which allows for a less intensive use under the town code.
Sylvia Overby, the chairwoman of the Planning Board, said in a phone interview on Friday that the applicant has plenty of work to do in addressing some of the issues the board has with the plan. She added that one of the board’s most important goals is limiting any disturbance of prime agricultural soils on the property.
“Our charge is to save those ag lands, so we need to make sure that happens,” Ms. Overby said.
Responding to some of the concerns from the Planning Board on Friday, Mr. Baird said some adjustments already had been made to the plan that had not yet been presented to the board.
He added that, in planning the original proposal, he should have “reeled in” some of the consultants for the project, “who wanted to try all kinds of new things.”