Southampton Village ARB Closes Hearing On Gin Lane Compound

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Approval of a sizable new compound on a property in the historic district of Southampton Village could soon be one step closer now that a public hearing on the project has been closed.

At the closing of the hearing on Monday, each of the five members of the Southampton Village Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation opined on a 14,561-square-foot house being proposed for 28 Gin Lane, along with a 5,055-square-foot guesthouse on the attached property at 24 Gin Lane.

Three of the board members offered comments that suggested they were ready to move on with the process—enough to provide the project with the necessary majority. The other two suggested that more could be done to improve the home.

“I don’t think this is the best,” said board member Jeffrey Brodlieb, one of the apparent dissenters. “I think it’s better. I think there have been suggestions that can make it even better and accommodate the community side of that balancing act.”

Board member Susan Stevenson also said more work could be done, mainly because the home’s current design will have too much impact on the historical nature of the district.

But the other three said they were ready to take action.

“I think we are at a point now where there’s nothing more that can be done to improve this than where we currently are,” said Curtis Highsmith, chairman of the ARB. “I’m more than prepared and feel comfortable moving forward with the application, at least closing for discussion.

“I think there’s nothing more substantive to be added to this file at this point. I think the file’s complete,” he added.

Board members Brian Brady and Christina Redding said the current design of the house is probably the best that can fit on the long and narrow 6.5-acre combined lot.

Mr. Brady said a letter submitted by Zachary Studenroth, the board’s architectural consultant, summed up whether it fits in the historical district. Mr. Studenroth said in his letter that both dwellings on the properties are “appropriate within the architectural and historical context of the Southampton Historic District.”

Neighbors have argued that the size and scale of the main building are inappropriate for the district.

“I feel for the neighbors and I feel for the community, but I really think that, on this lot, this is the best house we’re going to get—and I think it’s a beautiful house,” Mr. Brady said.

Southampton Village-based attorney John Bennett, who was at Monday’s meeting to represent the property’s owner, international investor Scott Shleifer, said the architect for the project, Manhattan-based Timothy Haynes, made a few more adjustments to the home in an effort to move the application forward. Some of those changes included reducing the footprint of the home by 23.5 feet from the north, and reducing the window sizes.

“I think we have literally bent over backward,” Mr. Bennett told the board. “I think the applicant should be applauded, not punished.”

Unlike the previous few hearings on the application where a line of people spoke, the only person to speak from the public was Amityville-based attorney Richard Handler, who spoke on behalf of families opposing the project.

“Indeed, there’s been great progress with this application,” Mr. Handler told the board, but he added that it was not enough to satisfy the homeowners. He said there are still a number of zoning issues with the home, and said the applicant is not honoring the side yard setback requirements.

Mr. Brady interrupted Mr. Handler and asked why zoning was being discussed at the ARB meeting. Mr. Brady suggested any zoning issues be brought up with the Village Zoning Board of Appeals.

Mr. Handler continued to bring up each objection, pointing out a glass railing that is out of line with the historic character of the district and not having specifics on a retaining wall’s eastern side fill. Mr. Handler also said the opposing residents would have rather seen the 23.5 feet taken from the southern side of the home and not the northern side, which reduced the overall size of the house by nearly 700 square feet.

To allow Mr. Handler time to review the recent changes to plans made by Mr. Haynes, the board is giving him 14 days to submit his comments.

The next ARB meeting will take place on September 11 at 7 p.m. in Southampton Village Hall on Main Street.

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