Featured Story

ZBA tackles controversial applications

JULIE LANE PHOTOS Property owner of Seven B & B, Beth Swanstrom (left), and her attorney, Patricia Moore, argue the ownership of a nonconforming B&B shouldn’t affect a conforming house Ms. Swanstrom owns and wants to renovate.

Owner of Seven B&B, Beth Swanstrom (left), and her attorney, Patricia Moore, argue the ownership of a nonconforming B&B shouldn’t affect a conforming house Ms. Swanstrom owns and wants to renovate.

Can a licensed owner of a Bed & Breakfast on Shelter Island also offer separate accommodations in a second structure on her property for short-term rentals (STRs) while observing the STR law?

That’s at the crux of Beth Swanstrom’s application to the Zoning Board of Appeals that was debated at a July 25 hearing.

What was listed as a hearing on a special permit to enlarge Ms. Swanstrom’s house, evolved into a lengthy discussion with the applicant’s attorney, Patricia Moore, arguing that no special permit is needed. Ms. Moore said that in the C zone where the house and B&B are located at 7 Stearns Point Road, the changes Ms. Swanstrom wants to make to the house that functions primarily as her living quarters is not nonconforming and shouldn’t need a special permit.

Only the B&B with four rooms that were grandfathered in as pre-existing are nonconforming under the town code. The private house is conforming to code, Ms. Moore said.

In the course of the discussion, it was revealed that in addition to the four B&B rooms that Ms. Swanstrom  has rented for several years, she also uses two rooms in the main house under the town’s STR regulations that limit how often and under what circumstances they can be rented.

JULIE LANE PHOTO The B & B on Stearns Point Road.

JULIE LANE PHOTO The B & B on Stearns Point Road.

Ms. Moore argued that just because her client has a nonconforming B&B, she should not be denied her right to have a separate private conforming house that can offer STRs.

ZBA members asked when a B&B guest becomes an STR guest.

Ms. Swanstrom explained she occasionally gets requests from elderly or infirm individuals needing first floor accommodations while the B&B has only second floor rooms, and can accommodate them on the first floor of her house.

Ms. Swanstrom is seeking to add two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, an attached garage and two decks to the existing house. In rejecting the application, the Building Department said the proposed use is an expansion of a nonconforming business, the B&B.

Letters from neighbors backing up her request for changes to the main house said she has been an exemplary business operator.

But that was not a unanimous opinion. Attorney Christopher Kelley representing neighbors Ron and Jennie Adler, said his clients object to the proposal. Mr. Kelley and former East Hampton planning director Lisa Liquori argued that there was a potential to house up to 16 people in the two structures. That included the potential of housing staff who, as part of their compensation, could be given guest rooms.

They said there was insufficient parking to accommodate that many people, despite earlier testimony that 14 parking spaces exist on the property. Ms. Liquori also questioned more intensive use of the septic system. Matt Sherman of Sherman Engineering & Consulting said after the hearing that plans call for installing a nitrogen-reducing septic system.

Mr. Kelley said he was involved in previous litigation over the same property before Ms. Swanstrom purchased it.

Ms. Moore countered that the litigation had involved a previous owner who was not living on the property as required to run a B&B.

As for other statements Mr. Kelley and Ms. Liquori made, Ms. Moore said they were based on “what if” scenarios not related to anything her client has or plans to do.

It remains unclear whether the ZBA will require a special permit for the house expansion project to go forward, but the hearing was left open for further testimony from principals and anyone else wanting to comment on the project at the next regular ZBA meeting, August 22.

A second hearing from Arthur Meyers of 2 Bay Avenue in the Montclair section of town proved just as controversial for neighbors who argued that plans for expansion were out of keeping with the nature of the area.

Mr. Myers wants to demolish an existing single family house on the property to make room for a two-story house with a finished basement and unfinished attic; a two-story attached addition with a full basement and a pool and pool deck; built-in barbecue and fireplace; and a new separate storage shed.

Besides needing an estimated eight area variances and a special permit, neighbors argued that proposed construction could exceed the 35-foot height limit, and a proposed front stair and porch access to the house would be more than just stepping stones set in sand.

Because of wetlands, the proposal calls for moving the new structure forward on the lot and neighbors insisted it would have more than the three bedrooms that Mr. Myers’ representatives said it would have. They also expressed concerns about their water views being compromised and a septic system being inadequate, despite Mr. Sherman’s statement that a nitrogen-reducing system was to be installed.

This is “a very humble neighborhood,” said Jon Otis, who lives directly across the street. It’s “a delicate neighborhood” and the character would be compromised by the proposed changes, he said.

The hearing was kept open to be continued on August 22.

A third hearing on property at 8 Wesley Avenue in the Heights met with resistance from the Heights Property Owners Corporation despite Mr. Sherman’s saying the plans would not change the neighborhood and planned construction would be complementary to the existing house and surrounding properties.
What’s proposed are renovations to the residence including an addition of a new living room, master bedroom and mud room, a laundry room, patio, porch and HVAC system.

The application would need multiple variances and a special permit because it is already a non-conforming structure.

If construction could be started in September, it would be completed by March, he said about what he called a “relatively simple project.”

That’s not how HPOC General Manager Stella Lagudis saw the project. She said in her four years on the job, this proposal has generated more concern among Heights residents than any other with which she has dealt.

It’s a historic house in an historic district and neighbors object to anything that would compromise that. The architectural design isn’t consistent with the neighborhood and would like to see a redesign that would keep renovations within the existing footprint.

ZBA member Phil DiOrio said the ZBA isn’t an Architecture Review Board, so it’s decisions can’t be based on style or historical significance.

The hearing remains open until the August 22 meeting and the ZBA wants to see a floor plan; a drawing showing the proposed building envelope; a plan for off-street parking; and a proposal for any changes that could lessen the patio area.

A second homeowner in the Heights, Susan Pribor, wants to make alterations to her 1890 house at 2 Clinton Avenue and received letters of support from neighbors. Architect Ian McDonald said his client said a lot of the renovations are inside the structure, but Ms. Pribor is also asking to include a new roof over an existing entryway and restoration of a porch.

Variances are also needed for work done without a permit that included installation of HVAC equipment, an outdoor shower, a bluestone patio and expansion of the porch area. Ms. Pribor would need several front and side yard variances for the project. Several of those changes were made in a renovation that occurred in 2003-04, but where not listed in a certificate of occupancy issued in 2010, Mr. McDonald said.

The hearing was closed, but the ZBA will accept written comments until August 15.

Mary Ward, a licensed architect and owner of a nonconforming structure at 29A Osprey Road, wants to make alterations to her house in the Near Shore Overlay District, including a new porch, garage, accessory building that would provide sleeping quarters, a pool and new entrance way to her property. The project would require multiple front and side yard variances. A variance could also be required for a rebuilt well cover if it’s determined to be larger than the original one.

That hearing was left open for further comments and questions.