Napeague Homeowners Seek a Lawn

The owners of a three-acre Napeague property want to replace beach vegetation with a lawn. T.E. McMorrow

    The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals held a busy but brisk session on Tuesday evening at Town Hall with four applications for variances on the agenda, in addition to a discussion about the Wainscott Wombles project on Montauk Highway in Wainscott (covered separately). Only one of the four applications drew opposition at the meeting.
    The application that drew an objection came from the owners of 2034 and 2036 Montauk Highway on Napeague, Mindy Nam and Mark Dhenert, who plan to merge two lots into one large, 31/3-acre parcel on property that runs from the highway all the way to the beach. The only thing they want from the Z.B.A. is a natural resources permit.
    Merging the lots would allow the applicants to cover a much larger area, with a 6,050-square-foot tennis court, a 640-square-foot pavilion, 831 square feet of decking with parking, and a 100-square-foot shed.
    The objection was to their proposed installation of a 2,300-square-foot lawn.
    Alex Walter, the Z.B.A. chairman, asked Billy Hajek of Land Marks, a planning firm representing the owners, why they wanted a lawn as opposed to natural vegetation. “Is it because the patio is away from the dwelling, and you want to walk across the lawn to get to the patio? Did they just want a lawn? Give me the rationale for the lawn,” Mr. Walter said. “They wanted something light on the feet,” Mr. Hajek responded.
    Mr. Hajek then referenced an application from the past in which the board granted an applicant something that would not ordinarily be permitted in exchange for a reduction in density. Making two lots one would meet that criterion.
    George Stankevich, however, the neighbor to the immediate west, argued that a reduction in density by folding together the two lots might not protect the property if it were sold. He urged the board to consider restrictions on future use. “You have the opportunity to lay down conditions,” he told the board.
    “This is an area of extraordinary beauty and fragility. We are concerned about anything that may imperil these qualities in the future,” he said.
    Tyler Borsack, who reviewed the application for the Town Planning Department, agreed with Mr. Stankevich about the quality of the property, saying the department was concerned by the impact of a lawn on the fragile dune eco-system, which, he said, was one of the rarest in New York State.
    Although Mr. Hajek said the owners would be willing to accept a restriction on the type of fertilizer that could be used on the lawn, Mr. Borsack had previously cautioned that such covenants were difficult to enforce.
    Dismissing these concerns, Don Cirillo, a member of the Z.B.A., said, “You’re only asking for a natural resources permit, so I think you should be allowed to do what you have to do.”
    The first hearing of the evening was for a proposed teardown and a new house at 95 Northwest Landing Road. An existing 986-square-foot, one-story house would be replaced with a two-story, 1,470-square-foot house with an additional 300 feet of deck on each floor. The application was for variances to allow wetland setbacks of 81.6, 64, and 31.3 feet when normally 100 feet is required. The 81.6-foot variance would put the new structure less than 20 feet from the wetlands. Additionally, a new septic system would be put in 22 feet from the wetlands when 150 feet is required.
    Joel Halsey of the Planning Department pointed out that while the numbers sound extreme, the existing house was built before the town zoning code was written and is two feet closer to the wetlands than the proposed new house would be. No one spoke in opposition.
    Another application involved tearing down an existing house. Vincent and Christine Sama want to put up a new 1,169-square-foot structure at 116 Runnymeade Drive on Gardiner’s Bay in Springs. Mr. Borsack, noted that the new building, even with the addition of a swimming pool, would be seven feet farther inland and would have minimal environmental impact. He expressed concern, however, that the applicants had refused to revegetate the property with indigenous plants.
     The fourth application was from Amedeo and Antonella Gabrielli, as represented by Richard Hammer, to build a 280-square-foot swimming pool at a new house at 589 Montauk Highway in Montauk. The Gabriellis need a five-foot variance for the pool.
    The board has up to 62 days to make a determination on all four applications.