Southampton ARB Approves Meadow Lane House On Monday

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The Southampton Village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review on Monday night approved the construction of a controversial Meadow Lane home that many neighbors feel is inappropriate for the historic district.

The newly approved house will replace the recently demolished, 120-year-old “A-wheel-y Moor” home at 40 Meadow Lane. When the demolition was approved last year, neighbors did not object, but they have said they believed at the time that the old house would be replaced with a shingle-style home consistent with the historic district. Earlier this summer the neighbors rallied upon realizing that the proposed house is, instead, a large glass structure.

At the neighbors’ insistence, in July, the board scheduled a limited public hearing—open only to some of those who had complained at a meeting in June—to hear arguments against the proposal. At the same time, 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.

The application before the ARB, filed by EAM 40 Meadow Lane LLC, is to build a single-family, two-story home on the roughly 1.27-acre property. The proposed seven-bedroom, 9.5-bathroom house will rise to 53 feet above sea level and 49 feet above grade—a full 14 feet above the village’s standards—in part because it will be elevated to meet increased Federal Emergency Management Agency flood height requirements. The house, which will be surrounded by shrubbery and trees, will have a zinc roof and glass paneling on all four sides.

“I thought the board showed an enormous amount of integrity and independence and this is the way a board is supposed to function,” Mr. Bennett said on Tuesday. “Particularly since it was under what I would describe as a withering blaze of political pressure, I think the village should be proud of the board members for following the law.”

In the written decision, which was approved 3-1, with Hamilton Hoge dissenting and Christine Redding absent, the board said that although it recognizes the concerns of the neighbors, they failed to prove that the house design was not consistent with the historic district. The decision also breaks down the main concerns presented throughout the summer by the opponents—mainly the scale of the house, its compatibility with the historic district, its materials and the neighbors’ privacy—and explains the ARB’s reasoning in answering those concerns.

During the public hearings, many neighbors argued that the proposed house is too large for the lot, noting that it would be taller than its predecessor. According to the village, the lot lies within the FEMA zone VE16, which requires that the lowest horizontal structure—in this case the ground floor, as there is no basement, be elevated 18 feet above sea level. That requirement, coupled with the 35-foot height limit of a dwelling in Southampton Village, would allow a height of up to 53 feet, which the proposed house meets. The decision also explains that the proposed dwelling will be 6,677 square feet of living space, which is 296 square feet less than the original house was.

“The board determines the building is properly scaled to the property and the surrounding houses in the neighborhood,” the decision reads. “The board also determines it lacks the jurisdiction to restrict the height of the structure below that provided in the village code or alter the minimum flood elevation requirement as interpreted by the office of the building inspector.”

Neighbors also objected to the design of the building, repeatedly citing the historic character of the street, as well as the new home’s proximity to the historic Meadow Club. The written decision notes that several of the houses in the historic district are classified with the village as having modern or post-modern architecture, while very few are classified as classic. The report goes on to say that although the proposed home is clearly not a shingle-style house, the architects for the project and the opponents for the project have different interpretations of the plans, leading to different conclusions about its aesthetic merits.

“Interpretation of the historic criteria need not be so rigid and unimaginative as to reduce the historic district to a time capsule preventing new concepts into the district when, as here, the proposal is new construction,” the decision says.

In regard to privacy concerns, neighbors presented that the facade of the house is mostly glass with balconies, which will obstruct neighboring views of the beach, create a reflective sun glare for passing pedestrians and motorists, and limit privacy for neighbors. However, the ARB says the homeowner has added opaque panels along the lower balconies.

According to architecture reports, the house will be constructed of pale brown limestone selected to match the beach and blend in.

“The board considers that the criteria of the historic district allows for variation of shingle style architecture and materials for houses other than cedar shingles,” it reads. “The materials of this house were selected for their durability and ability to blend in with the natural colors of the seashore environment. They are muted, subdued, and weathering in the salt air environment will further dull the luster of the products.”

The board said the new house will allow the district to move into the future, while at the same time maintaining its rich history.

“The board determines the historic code should be interpreted with the flexibility to adapt current and future designs incorporating new building materials and techniques,” the decision reads. “Architecture, even within the historic district, should not be static, limiting design to rigid and inflexible interpretation.”

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