The Shelter Island Zoning Board of Appeals has a message for applicants: Not only tell us what your project will look like when it’s completed, but also the process involved to achieve your goal. Fail to do that and you’re likely to get a stop work order and be further delayed until the project can be reviewed again.
That’s what Rob and Genevieve Lynch of 72 Ram Island Drive were told at the ZBA meeting on December 10. The couple had won unanimous approval in March to enlarge their nonconforming house, with provisions requiring screening of the property to meet neighbors’ concerns and a caveat prohibiting the addition of a second story.
But in the course of the work, builders discovered they’d have to remove walls and excavate the foundation, actions their architects and Mr. Lynch had said wouldn’t be necessary.
Enter Chris Tehan of the Island’s Building Department who visited the site recently and found extensive excavation had taken place. He issued a stop work order. That brought architect Bill Ryall, builder Bob Plumb of Salt Construction in Sag Harbor, consultant Bruce Anderson and Mr. Lynch to the ZBA to express their mea culpas, and pledge to restart the work from the current point. They also promised it will be the design the ZBA had expected when it’s finished.
But before the ZBA was ready to decide how to proceed, there was a good amount of wrist-slapping administered by ZBA members who felt they had been deceived.
“You could have been direct and forthcoming,” member Phil DiOrio told the team.
“It’s not that we would have said no, but we would have understood what you were doing,” said Patricia Shillingburg, chairing the meeting in the absence of ZBA chief Doug Matz. “All this could have been avoided had you explained from the outset what you were going to be doing,” she said.
Mr. Plumb said he hadn’t seen the drawings of the project when he previously predicted only minor digging.
What he should have done was to come back to the building department to explain the situation that could have resulted in faster action to get the project moving, William Johnston III said.
That didn’t happen.
“We want to be exact with everything, but we can’t be,” Mr. Anderson said. “We’re not here to deceive you. The project is still the project,” he said.
“It looks like an archaeological dig,” Ms. Shillingburg said. “We didn’t see this as the big project that it really is.”
“We are where we are,” Mr. Anderson responded.
What the team hoped for was something the ZBA couldn’t provide — approval to immediately lift the stop work order and allow the project to proceed. Concerns with impending winter weather causing difficulties in finishing the project quickly were driving them.
But with Mr. Matz absent and his stated request to his colleagues that he be present when a decision is handed down, the members’ hands were tied.
Also, Town Attorney Laury Dowd wanted time to write an appropriate opinion that would reflect what has been done and how the project would proceed.
In other actions, the ZBA unanimously approved:
• An application from the Richard Hogan Revocable Trust to construct a pavilion on property at 1 Apple Orchard Lane in Shorewood with a provision that there can’t be another structure built on the lot. The pavilion can’t be enclosed with screening or glass and can’t have any permanent bathroom or kitchen.
• An application from Alan Dowling Jr. for a variance at 24 Hilo Drive to construct a new dwelling with setback of 22 feet on the west side, 3 feet less than the required setback under town code.