ZBA: Library needs to apply for variances for expansion

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The East Hampton Library’s effort to build a children’s wing ran into more trouble last week, when the vice chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals told the library’s lawyer that the plan required two variances from the village code.

Library officials have said that requiring them to seek the variances is unfair and would kill the library expansion. Doreen Niggles, library board president, had no comment after the ZBA meeting, nor did Dennis Fabiszak, library director.

When the East Hampton Library’s attorney, William W. Esseks Jr., appeared at the board at its meeting Friday to discuss the library, after having requested to be added to the board’s agenda, he told board members they now had everything they needed to schedule a hearing on a library’s application for a special permit to build an extension for a children’s wing. The library launched the application process about five years ago, he noted.

Noting that the board had accepted the library’s draft environmental impact study (DEIS) last summer, and that he had just filed a new survey as requested by the board, he said, “Please schedule the special permit hearing at your earliest convenience, but with no less than 30 days notice.”

A hearing on the DEIS would be scheduled at that same time as the hearing on the special permit application, according to village attorney Linda Riley.

But Joan Denny, vice chairman of the board, told Mr. Esseks that the library’s documentation is not complete. She said it needs to submit applications for two variances before a hearing date can be set.

One would be for a variance from the village code requirement for a 70-foot setback from the curb in front of the library for any new structures. The setback would include the site of the proposed addition to the library, even though it is to be built in the back and west of the building.

She also said the library needs to include parking places, aisles and the driveway when it computes how much of the property will be covered by structures if the wing is built, according to an opinion issued by Code Enforcement Officer Tom Lawrence in a letter to the board last August. He wrote the board that the library had excluded certain existing “grass parking spaces” and paved spaces, as well as the library’s circular driveway, from its calculation of lot coverage. Ms. Denny suggested Mr. Esseks apply for a variance because, when they are included, the wing will exceed lot coverage limits.

Meanwhile, the new survey, which does not include the driveways, aisles and parking spaces in its computation of future lot coverage, will be reviewed by the board’s consultant, Gene Cross, Ms. Denny said.

It’s the library’s position that it is being singled out by the board for a strict interpretation of the code that was not applied in two earlier cases.

Mr. Esseks, reading aloud from a letter he wrote the board on December 9, said that the “driveways, parking areas, paved or not paved, existing, proposed or required” were “not counted in arriving at coverage pursuant to the decisions of your board on November 12, 2004, concerning St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and on March 23, 2007, concerning the First Presbyterian Church of East Hampton.” The ZBA granted each of the churches a special permit to expand without considering parking areas and spaces in lot coverage, Mr. Esseks noted.

Also, Mr. Esseks suggested that, rather than proposing any specific number of additional parking spaces required for the new wing under the code, the 
library would let the ZBA determine whatever is appropriate.

“But it’s not our job to come up with a parking plan for the library,” Ms. Denny said.

Concerning the front yard setback, Mr. Esseks said in an interview after the meeting, “They want me to apply for a front yard variance in the backyard. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Mr. Esseks said he would consult with the library board about applying for the variances and it would be up to the board members to decide whether or not to seek them.

Ms. Denny scheduled another discussion on the library for its January 9 meeting.

The issue of the driveway and parking spaces being included in lot coverage has been the subject of Village Board of Trustees meetings over the last few months as that panel weighed whether or not to issue an exemption for the library. But the board voted down the exemption at its Friday, November 21 meeting. It also voted down a companion proposal that would have made it clear that all parking and driveway facilities must be included in all future applications for special permits.

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said the board had voted down the proposal because it didn’t want to be seen as taking sides in the debate over the 
library’s plan to add the children’s 
wing to the building.

Saying the library has an inadequate children’s collection, library officials want to add 3,545 square feet on the library’s first floor to provide space to increase its collection of books for children and young adults. Another 3,257 square feet would be added in the basement for a 60-person lecture room. The original plan called for 10,000 square feet and was cut down to meet early objections from the Appeals Board.

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