Bigger Isn’t Always Better For East Hampton Village Zoning Board

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Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zazlav and his wife, Pamela, are part of one of television’s largest empires, and they say their dwelling in East Hampton Village isn’t quite big enough.

The couple is seeking a coastal erosion permit and area variances for their home on Drew Lane, under the name Nala LLC, to allow renovations to an existing home, a new swimming pool, a new garage/pool house structure, drainage structures, a new sanitary system, and landscaping, among other cosmetic changes.

As they occupy the property formerly the home to publisher, writer and restaurateur Jerry Della Femina, the Zazlavs’ application raised a few environmental concerns from the board because the property is oceanfront, bordering a Trustee-owned beach, and many of its structures run the risk of damaging the dunes.

The Zazlavs are seeking to deepen the pool from 5 to 8 feet, according to their attorney, Richard Hammer of Biondo & Hammer LLP in Montauk, because Mr. Zazlav’s relative was injured from diving into a shallow pool. But Board Chairman Frank E. Newbold said further digging into the dune on the property to deepen the pool could be problematic.

“The integrity of the primary dune on the property is a concern for the village and the applicant,” said Mr. Hammer, explaining that Dr. Lee Weishar from the Woods Hole Group, a coastal science and engineering firm, came and observed the property right after Hurricane Sandy to assess the damage and the possible effect of the project at hand.

“When he visited, dune repairs hadn’t been complete, but he said the proposed project wouldn’t have an adverse impact on the dune. Our proposal is to try not to excavate or further disturb any of the area seaward of the existing residence,” Mr. Hammer said.

Furthermore, according to Mr. Hammer, Dr. Weishar said that by adding width to the proposed garage, the applicants would actually be extending the volume of the dune because of the work that would have to be done to the dune to bolster it up and support the structure.

The property itself has seemingly shrunk, from 1.66 acres when it was surveyed in 1990, to 1.3 acres now, another environmental concern for both the board and the applicant, said Mr. Newbold. “I’m not sure how they calculated those numbers,” said Mr. Hammer, adding that there could be some discrepancy in numbers from old surveys. “But the existing bulkhead has always remained seaward and has always remained covered,” he said, adding that it is a testament to the bulkhead’s integrity.

The property also has a variance in place that states all work on the dune must be done by hand and no machinery is permitted on its vicinity to further protect the area. But the board wasn’t entirely convinced.

“I want to know where and what excavation will be done, what and where there will be any digging at all,” said Board Member Chris Minardi. “This house and the pool seem the closest [to the beach] on that stretch and there’s sand up adjacent to the house and the courtyard.”

Mr. Hammer said the applicants would be happy to submit the information the board requested, and said their plans were fueled mostly by the applicants’ desire not to do a complete tear-down, despite it being the easier route for change.

“We talked about demolition,” said Mr. Hammer. “David and Pam have been living there since they purchased it, but they want to do minimal construction and disturbance to the site. Demolition would be a huge undertaking, and extend both the degree and length of construction activity. It would affect the neighborhood.”

Also before the ZBA is the application for a home owned by real estate investor Michael Minkoff on Jones Cove Road. While Mr. Minkoff has a long-standing history of successfully flipping houses—like a Stony Hill farmhouse on Town Lane that he bought from the Potter family and quickly sold to Alec Baldwin—the Jones Cove Road home has been a flop after a mix-up with building permits and surveys.

The application is seeking an area variance to allow the house to continue to exist in its current state, even though it was built 29 percent over the allowed gross floor area after the building inspector at the time gave approval to the plans.

Mr. Minkoff entered into a contract with Sagaponack Builders last year after the house had been sitting on the real estate market, 80 percent finished.

“We purchased the property with the intent to complete it,” said Rob Friedman, managing partner of the company. “Minkoff had been trying to sell it while it was incomplete and that wasn’t successful … The biggest issue is that Michael never got a final inspection because there were a few things that wouldn’t pass and he didn’t have final board of health approval and those were the two biggest barriers.”

Mr. Newbold said although the permits were issued in error, he “would imagine Mr. Friedman and others would say they have a valid building permit and they acted on the advice of professionals.”

The board requested the applicant look at ways to reduce the overall gross floor area, one of which is to remove the sheet rock from a space above the garage to ensure the space isn’t being used as living space and therefore not count it toward the overall square footage calculation.

With no opposition on either the Minkoff or Nala LLC applications, the board closed the hearings on both and written determinations will be read at its next meeting on December 12.

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