The houses on Roses Grove Road and Old Trail in the northern woods of Water Mill tend to be traditional, 3,000-square-foot second homes nestled on 1-acre properties surrounded by dense woods.
That’s part of the reason that Alex Cohen and his neighbors were shocked when they visited their summer homes early this year and found that a huge house had been built in their backyards—without a building permit.
The builder, Paul Delzatto of PMD Builders, Inc. of Southampton, had purchased the land in the fall of 2007 for $700,000 and before his neighbors closed their homes for the winter, he’d already begun clearing the lot at 204 Roses Grove Road.
Holly Rothkopf, who lives next door, said that she’d initially been excited that the property’s former run-down multifamily house, where numerous cars always clogged the driveway and strangers were often coming and going, would be replaced with a home for one family.
“We really wanted something built there that was nice and reasonable,” she said. “We were excited.”
When she visited her house to prune her blueberry bushes in early March, she was horrified to see an enormous house—which she said Mr. Delzatto had initially touted on his website as 11,500-square-feet—towering over her country getaway home.
Mr. Delzatto’s website, pmd-builder.com, shows numerous elevations and floor plans for the eight-bedroom, 11-bathroom house, including detailed specs down to the SubZero refrigerator, three Bosch dishwashers, seven fireplaces, integrated sound system and a gated entry.
Though Mr. Delzatto’s website shows two other houses that he’s built in Southampton Town, he is not currently licensed as a contractor here.
“It’s shocking to us, coming from Manhattan where you need a permit for everything,” said Ms. Rothkopf. “You just have to look at it and say it’s not appropriate for the community.”
Of course, you need a permit for everything in Southampton too, though why Mr. Delzatto decided to build the house without bothering to apply for anything but a demolition permit for the deck on the original house baffles town officials too.
The town has issued six criminal violations against Mr. Delzatto, including a stop work order issued in January.
Mr. Delzatto did not return repeated calls for comment and a cell phone number listed on a sign outside his property has been disconnected.
“It goes without saying that constructing a house without a permit is frowned upon, to say the least,” said Town Attorney Dan Adams, who said that if Mr. Delzatto does not obey the stop work orders the town’s next remedy would be to petition for an injunction in State Supreme Court.
Mr. Delzatto applied to the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals in August for height and side yard setback variances. The property violates a side yard setback by 8.9 feet. It remains to be seen whether the ZBA has any sympathy for his case. He is next scheduled to appear before the appeals board on October 16.
He reportedly removed the old cesspools at the property and was preparing to put new ones in just before Labor Day when one of his neighbors, Alex Cohen, saw that he was working and called the town, which issued another stop work order.
Mr. Delzatto’s attorney, John Sullivan of the Southampton firm Burke & Sullivan, told the board in September that he had mistakenly advised his client that he had a right to put in the cesspools, despite the fact that he had no permits from the Suffolk County Health Department to do so.
Mr. Sullivan did not return calls for comment.
“The members of the board said ‘this isn’t the wild, wild west,’” said Mr. Cohen. “I feel the house really should be demolished. It would really be setting a horrible precedent.”
Mr. Cohen, along with Ms. Rothkopf, her husband Stuart Eisenberg and another neighbor, Nick Giordano, have already spent more than $10,000 mounting their own legal argument against Mr. Delzatto before the ZBA.
“The crazy part is not that it’s huge, it’s that he tried to go in the back door,” said Mr. Giordano, who lives to the east of the big house on Roses Grove Road. “It’s quite smart of him to do this, or at least cunning. He’s saying ‘I know I was a bad boy. Slap me on the wrist a little bit.’ When it all comes down to it, is the board going to accept this? If they do they will be establishing a build-first, get permission later precedent.”
Mr. Giordano said that he had also initially been charmed by Mr. Delzatto, who offered to give him firewood when he began clearing the lot last fall.
Mr. Delzatto’s attorneys are also arguing that he cleared only 50 percent of the property, but the neighbors disagree.
Last month, they hired their own land surveyor, Jacob Buchheit of Dolliver Land Surveying in Hampton Bays, who estimated that 91 percent of the lot had been cleared.
Mr. Delzatto had also regraded the land, complete with slate terraces designed to position the house higher in order to achieve precious water views. Mr. Buchheit estimated that the house exceeds the town’s sky plane limit by more than 12 feet.
The neighbors say that the clearing and regrading of the property is causing fill to cover the roots and kill the trees at their property lines, and Mr. Giordano said that large pieces of slate are beginning to slide in an avalanche onto his property.
“He’s a menace to society. He created a quality of life issue for us,” said Mr. Giordano. “Before, everyone had their own space and no one intruded on each other. His structure is looking right in my bedroom window. If I want craziness, I’d be in my apartment in the city. He wanted to impose that negative will on us. Well, be careful what you do to others, ‘cause it’ll be right back at you.”