Featured Story

Two controversial building projects moving forward

JULIE LANE PHOTO Attorney Chris Kent (left) and builder, Michael Burns, discuss changes as Building Department Permit Coordinator Lori Beard Raymond looks on at the August 17 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Attorney Chris Kent (left) and builder, Michael Burns, discuss changes at the August 17 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals as Building Department Permit Coordinator Lori Beard Raymond looks on.

The Zoning Board of Appeals broke the logjam August 17, setting the stage for movement on two significant projects.

Both the Pandion application — a proposed housing development at the former St. Gabriel’s property — and the Vella application —  the former Herrmann’s Castle site on Shore Road — are poised for action after several delays.

Pandion owner, Richard Hogan, was expected to get approval this week for two community buildings on the property, a boathouse and a clubhouse.

Until this action, the ZBA and the Waterways Management Advisory Committee (WMAC) had maintained they couldn’t sign off until the Planning Board acted on the subdivision plans, establishing lot lines and roads within the development.

The ZBA also had questioned dock plans that needed WMAC approval before members act to give a green light to the boathouse.

The Planning Board awaited both ZBA and WMAC actions before it solidified the site plan.

The ZBA approval of the two community buildings was expected to come this week with stipulations.

Among them are:
• Limiting use of the two buildings to residents and their guests
• Prohibiting commercial uses of either building, while leaving open the possibility that the clubhouse might be opened for nonprofit fundraising events by other groups
• Prohibiting sleeping quarters within the clubhouse
• Rejecting lights on the adjacent tennis courts
• Possibly limiting docks to one community dock and one or two individual docks

Zach Vella’s efforts to demolish the former Herrmann’s Castle on Shore Road and replace it with a new house are not finalized, but appear on the way to gaining ZBA approval for a 615 square foot observation room atop a two-story building.

Mr. Vella had previously won approval for the two-story house from the Town Board, but until last week, it appeared that the applicant’s representatives might have to return to the board to redo the application, if the ZBA approved the observation room.

Mr. Vella’s representatives have consistently argued the new structure would be closer to conforming with code than the existing house.

That argument would work if plans called for renovating the existing house. But a different set of requirements applies when seeking a complete rebuild, according to Town Attorney Laury Dowd.

The ZBA has another concern  about a wall rising from the roof of the second story. The wall was proposed for the aesthetic look of the building, according to architect Barbara Corwin, and for safety.

But ZBA members said they thought there was no need for an opening from the observation room onto the roof and that a smaller structure could be used to keep workmen safe.

Another alternative would be a railing instead of a wall.

ZBA Chairman Doug Matz asked the Vella team to return in September with new plans to decrease some of the living space in the first two stories to make up for the observation room. .

“What we’re trying to do is reduce the nonconformity,” Mr. Matz said.

“We hear your concerns,” attorney Chris Kent said, promising the revised plan would address them.

If the revised plan can successfully reduce the living space with the observation room, both sides agreed it would likely not be necessary to return to the Town Board for further action.