East Hampton Village Wants New Limits On Basements And Big Houses

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The East Hampton Village Board this week introduced two proposed new local laws that would limit the size of basements and the size of houses and accessory features on properties of more than 1-acre.

The board will hold public hearings on both new laws on May 15 at the village Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street at 11 a.m.

The new cellar code would prohibit a basement from extending beyond the footprint of the exterior walls of the above-ground house.

Cavernous “lower levels,” as builders have begun marketing them, have proliferated beneath large estate homes that have reached the maximum size limits allowed under zoning codes. In estate sections south of Montauk Highway, constructing the sprawling underground areas often requires massive de-watering efforts to lower groundwater tables so that concrete foundations can be poured.

East Hampton had been considering making underground spaces part of the overall calculation of gross floor area that it uses to set house size limits according to lot size. Officials had said they feared that if the total floor space were not limited, builders would simply go deeper, creating one or more underground levels, so the village has also introduced a new code amendment defining what a “story” is that will prevent additional levels of houses underground.

The board will also solicit public input next month on a proposed new law that would dial back the allowable square footage of houses on lots larger than 1 acre.

The proposed code amendments follow a set of recommendations submitted earlier this month by the village’s planning and zoning advisory committee. The amendments propose new formulas for calculating the total allowable gross floor area on lots of more than 40,000 square feet.

The current formula restricts all houses to 10 percent of total lot size plus 1,000 square feet. The amended law would maintain that formula for houses up to 40,000 square feet, but recalculate the maximum on lots between 40,000 and 80,000 square feet at 7 percent of the lot area, plus 2,400 square feet. On lots larger than 80,000 square feet, the formula would be 3 percent, plus 5,400 square feet. The overall maximum for all residential structures, regardless of lot size, would remain at 20,000 square feet.

The new amendments would also reduce the allowable size of accessory structures on larger lots and would reduce the total amount of lot coverage allowed by additional amenities such as tennis courts, swimming pools, patios and walkways.

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