Neighbors seek lighting constraints as an Appeals Board condition for house expansion

JULIE LANE PHOTO | House at 12 North Silver Beach Road that will double in size if the ZBA approves a special permit and allows a front yard setback being requested by owners Michael and Miai Ietta.

Residents asked for constraints on lighting at their neighbors’ new, larger house Wednesday when the Shelter Island Zoning Board of Appeals conducted a hearing on Michael and Maia Ietta’s plan to renovate their non-conforming house at 12 North Silver Beach Road. The existing structure is about 2,000 square feet and renovations and additions would result in doubling that space.

Because it will result in a reconstruction of more than 50 percent of the structure, the Iettas need a special permit along with a front lot variance to undertake the project. The proposal also calls for a new terrace and entryway to the house.

Neighbor Linda Strahm said the Iettas tend to have outdoor lighting on all night and that they’re bright and light up the neighborhood. Similarly, neighbor Susan Lundstrum said she doesn’t object to lighting but would appreciate it being more muted with bright light turned off after about 11 p.m. So bright are the lights, she said, that if she gets up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, she doesn’t need to put any lights on in her house.

Represented at the hearing by architect Bill Gorman, the Iettas previously obtained a front yard setback variance for the house to 34.5 feet from the required 40 feet. The additional variance, if granted, would result in the front of the house being three and a half feet closer to the lot line, Mr. Gorman said. He noted that other houses on the street have similar setbacks, maintaining that it wouldn’t adversely affect the character of the neighborhood.

Mr. Gorman, who said he lives in Orient where dark sky lighting is the norm, said he would be open to a ZBA decision that mandated dark skies adherence.

“We all think that we have the right to see the stars,” ZBA member Patricia Shillingburg said.

“Especially on Shelter Island,” Mr. Gorman chimed in.

Shelter Island Building Department permit examiner Mary Wilson asked that the ZBA decision include a clause that would require another application to the board should the construction end up being far more extensive than anticipated. She pointed out that a lot of times, when homeowners plan a more than 50-percent renovation, they discover as work proceeds that the house really needs to be demolished and replaced. Such a circumstance should trigger a new ZBA hearing, Ms. Wilson said.

The ZBA closed the hearing Wednesday but will accept written comments on the application until the close of business on Wednesday, October 10.