Historic Meadow Lane Home Demolished On Thursday; Public Hearing On Replacement Concluded Monday

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A reopened public hearing on a modern home proposed on Meadow Lane in Southampton Village was closed for a second time on Monday—much to the consternation of neighbors who object to its presence in the village’s historical district.

At an at times heated meeting of the village’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, the board heard from five Meadow Lane residents who are opposed to the new house and who had pushed earlier this summer to have the public hearing reopened, saying they did not know that a modern house would replace the 120-year-old “A-wheel-y Moor” home at 40 Meadow Lane, which was demolished last week.

The board had acquiesced in July, scheduling a limited public hearing—open only to some of those who had complained at the meeting in June—to hear arguments against the proposal.

On Monday, the board also heard from John Bennett, the applicant’s attorney, and several designers, architects and landscapers involved with the project, who addressed criticisms from neighbors and answered questions from the board.

At the end of the roughly two-and-a-half-hour hearing, the board agreed to close the proceedings in anticipation of making a decision, pending the submission of landscaping and glass plans by the applicant.

“The original application was irresponsibly incomplete, without perspective drawings showing how it would relate to the historic district or the immediate neighbors,” attorney and neighbor Philip Howard said at the hearing.

“The perspectives prepared by the neighbors show that the proposed house will loom over the district and cast a shadow over the immediate neighbors,” he continued.

The application before the ARB, filed by EAM 40 Meadow Lane, LLC, is to build a single-family, two-story home on the roughly 1.5-acre property. The proposed seven-bedroom, 9.5-bathroom house will stand at 53 feet above sea level and 49 feet above grade—a full 14 feet above village standards, in part because it will be elevated to meet increased Federal Emergency Management Agency height requirements. The house, which will be surrounded by shrubbery and trees, will have a zinc roof and glass paneling on all four sides.

After hearing from both sides on Monday, ARB members asked Mr. Bennett for more information, including depictions of what will be seen of the house from the beach—only a 20-foot dune will separate them—and what type of glass will be used, to address neighbors’ concerns about privacy.

Mr. Bennett at first refused the request, saying that if it had been requested at the original public hearing in June he would have been happy to comply, but that since he felt this was an illegal second hearing, he would submit no further information. He demanded several times that the hearing be closed.

“I have no intention of providing any additional information,” Mr. Bennett said. “This hearing itself is improper and procedurally flawed. I have responded to every single thing that was illegally requested of me the last time. If anybody wanted additional information, they damn well should have gotten their act together and asked for it. I demand the meeting be closed.”

Neighbors pushed for the hearing to be reopened when they say they learned that sketches of a more traditional-style house presented in June were actually just to demonstrate size. The actual design of the proposed house is much more modern.

According to Mr. Bennett, there is no time to hold the hearing open for more information. He blamed a proposed moratorium in Southampton Village that will suspend building permit approvals for houses more than 35 feet above the existing natural grade of the property. That means that if an altered height line is required for flood insurance and a building permit, the permit would not be approved until the Village Board, members of the ARB and the village attorneys are able to re-evaluate the current village code.

Mr. Bennett went so far as to say that “unjust political pressure” was pushing the ARB, and that the application was deliberately being stalled so that it would fall under the pending moratorium, which will be discussed by the Village Board at a public hearing on August 26 and could go into effect in the fall. The ARB did not address those claims.

“The moratorium spawned by the objectants is hanging over my client’s head, and I cannot give up the argument in a court of law that was a result of inappropriate political interference and an inappropriate reopening of the hearing, and that somehow I agreed to the postponing of this,” Mr. Bennett said. “I will not do that.”

After several more rounds of questions, Mr. Bennett agreed to provide the board with the height of all surrounding shrubbery and plantings, as well as information regarding the type of glass to be used in the house, under the condition that the hearing be closed on Monday.

The board agreed, with Esther Paster offering a motion to close the hearing. However, it will refrain from issuing a decision until the information is provided to the board. Chairman Curtis Highsmith and Brian Brady agreed, while Hamilton Hoge cast the lone dissenting vote, arguing that the hearing should be held open to allow comment on any new information. Board member Christina Redding was absent.

The board did not set a deadline for reviewing the application, and it is unclear when a written decision will be issued and voted on.

“I really would like to close this application,” Ms. Paster said just before the vote, “because I feel that it should have been the responsibility of all the neighbors to attend the public hearings and the board meetings, and I think because they did not do that they put this board and this village and the applicant in a very difficult position. So I will vote to close this application with the submission of additional information that was requested—and we would appreciate the information as soon as possible.”

The house that was demolished last week was most likely built in the 1880s. The owners received a certificate of appropriateness to demolish it in October 2013, and a permit was authorized on July 7, 2014.

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