Perelman's Creeks Puzzles Almost Solved

Citing history of noncompliance, Z.B.A. wants assurances this time round
Several structures on Ronald Perelman's Creeks estate in East Hampton were built illegally without permits and outside of zoning restrictions. Hampton Pix

An application from Ron Perelman, the billionaire investor, to legalize the construction and alteration of multiple structures at the Creeks, his 58-acre estate on Georgica Pond, without building permits and in violation of the village code inched toward resolution on Friday at a meeting of the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals. 

To the disappointment of Leonard Ackerman, an attorney representing Mr. Perelman, the hearing was left open, however, as Linda Riley, the village’s attorney, insisted that the applicant provide specific information about what would be done, and when, to mitigate the numerous violations in exchange for variances to legalize the noncompliant structures. 

In asking that the hearing be closed, Mr. Ackerman cited the approaching spring and implementation of agreed-to mitigation. No, Ms. Riley said. “This has been going on since 2012. I think we need to get it right. I’m not sure that we are all on the same page about what’s going to be done when, and precisely what you’re going to be obligated to do when. . . . I want to hear that you’ve agreed to all of these conditions, if you have.” 

“We’ve come this far,” Frank Newbold, the board’s chairman, said. “I think we’re eager to nail this down. The prudent thing would be to leave the hearing open. We will get the covenants just described, they’ll be distributed to the board, our counsel will review them.” The hearing will continue at the board’s next meeting, on March 9.

Mr. Perelman seeks to legalize the enlargement of a small synagogue to 1,275 square feet, where the maximum permitted for an accessory building is 250 square feet, and for the building to remain at a height of 15.1 feet, where the maximum is 14 feet. He also seeks variances to legalize 160 square feet of additions to the main residence and for the earlier extension, expansion, and alteration of nonconforming accessory buildings containing cooking and living facilities. The additions are 100 feet from wetlands, where a 150-foot setback is required.

Variances would also be required to legalize the construction of a 5,802-square-foot barn with cooking and living facilities, which Mr. Perelman proposes in exchange for converting a 4,217-square-foot carriage house, also containing cooking and living, into an accessory building with storage space. 

In addition, area and wetlands setback variances are required to legalize six artworks and sculptures installed within the rear-yard and wetlands setbacks, the nearest directly on the rear-yard lot line and wetlands; the required rear-yard setback is 40 feet, the required wetlands setback 150 feet. 

Mr. Newbold prefaced the hearing by stating, “This is really just about our code and what the rules are.” Referring to a letter in last week’s issue of The East Hampton Star, he said, “We in no sense have to cut a deal,” as he said the letter’s author had implied. “We are here to judge it on its merits. There are many documented violations, where things were done illegally. We are here to judge each of these violations carefully, and look for substantial reductions and mediation to the property.” 

In going over the variance requests one at a time, the board and Mr. Perelman’s representatives agreed that the applicant will submit a covenant pledging that the small synagogue would not be used as an overnight dwelling and its shower would be removed. A workout room that was illegally enlarged by 71 percent, to 795 square feet, would also have to be reduced to its original size. 

Seventy thousand square feet of vegetation had been illegally cleared within the 125-foot wetlands setback, Mr. Newbold said. As mitigation, the applicant has proposed revegetating that area with an additional 63,000 square feet to be replanted. A “natural landscape practice” was agreed to for the entire site, he said, “which, with all the shoreline, is very important.” 

The applicant’s initial proposal to upgrade the sanitary system for much of the property now, with an additional upgrade in the future, was met with a cool reception, however. The board’s dilemma, Mr. Newbold said, was that “we want to make sure, since that is a component of the health of the pond, what are the teeth that we have to make sure that this has happened? There’s been a history of noncompliance on this property.” 

New, nitrogen-reducing septic systems are experimental, Mr. Ackerman said, and given the money being allocated to the project, a two-year window in which to evaluate new systems was advisable. 

“What does the village do,” Ms. Riley asked, “if by some chance . . . it doesn’t happen?” Would revocation of the property’s certificate of occupancy be appropriate?

“I suspect you’d issue a violation,” Mr. Ackerman said.  

“Which gets you a $250 fine in justice court,” Ms. Riley replied. 

Mr. Ackerman pressed Ms. Riley for conditional approval that would give her and the board “a level of comfort.” 

“I’m not steering this boat, the board is,” Ms. Riley answered. “I’m going to take my guidance from the board as I always do, but frankly I would prefer not to be left with the hearing closed and the attorney negotiating things without the input of the board.” 

Mr. Newbold asked for an opinion from Ken Collum, the village’s building inspector. His department does not issue certificates of occupancy, he said, “unless all the terms and agreements have been met that you have placed upon the property,” adding that certificates of occupancy are not generally revoked. Should the applicant apply to the coun

ty health department to install a septic system and not follow through, “the permit simply expires,” he said. “There’s no teeth to make them do this.” 

“So even, in theory, if the C of O currently is not valid because of these outstanding violations,” Mr. Newbold said, “they could continue to use and enjoy the property” for the permit’s duration. “We just want to make it as ironclad as possible that whatever is agreed to is completed.” 

Mr. Ackerman acquiesced, agreeing that Mr. Perelman would install state-of-the-art sanitary systems for the entire property within one year of receiving a permit from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, rather than on a two-phase, multiyear timeline as proposed. That covenant, board members said, was important to a larger effort to improve the pond’s ecological condition. 

Four determinations were announced at the meeting. The board granted Ana Meier variances to allow the construction of a breezeway with a width that is less than half its length, which is not permitted by the code, and to allow the construction of a swimming pool that falls within the rear-yard setback at 18 Jones Creek Lane. The property is vacant; Ms. Meier’s father, the architect Richard Meier, bought the property in 1972, subsequently transferred it to his daughter, and designed the house to be constructed there.  

An attorney representing neighbors on Briar Patch Lane, the entertainers Jay-Z and Beyoncé, had objected to the application, stating that the pool’s proposed location was in her clients’ sightline of an open field owned by the Nature Conservancy. Jay-Z and Beyoncé purchased their property last year for a reported $25.9 million. 

John and Evelyn McNiff of 71 Apaquogue Road were granted a freshwater wetlands permit and variances allowing construction of additions to a nonconforming accessory residence, construction of a swimming pool within the side-yard setback, installation of a septic system within the wetlands setback, construction of a 322-square-foot second-story addition to an accessory dwelling within the wetlands and rear-yard setbacks, and to allow the accessory building to be 21.5 feet high where the maximum height of accessory buildings is 14 feet. 

The board granted Ron Vinder variances to construct a 42-square-foot addition to a residence and to make alterations to a pool house within the side and rear-yard setbacks at 10 Baiting Hollow Road. 

William Schottenstein of 30 Gay Road was granted variances to construct an addition to a residence that will fall within the side and rear-yard lot lines and result in floor area of 2,421 square feet, where the maximum permitted on the lot is 2,106 square feet.