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Mar 24, 2010 1:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Attorney for couple says that the razing of oceanfront home in Quogue was a mistake

Mar 24, 2010 1:14 PM

After several years of waiting and multiple revisions, a couple finally secured approval in November 2008 to expand their oceanfront home in Quogue Village. And after more delays, the couple, Joseph MacLean and Marjorie Dyer, hired a contractor to begin the renovations sometime late last year, starting what many expected to be the final chapter of a saga dating back to 2005.

But the writing of that final chapter is now delayed indefinitely after the contractor hired by Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer mistakenly demolished the entire one-story house sometime this past winter, leaving behind only a brick chimney and the bare boards of the home’s deck, according to their attorney.

Now Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer, who had secured approval from the Quogue Zoning Board of Appeals to add a partial second story and an extension to the first floor of their Rogusa Lane home, which is located just south of Dune Road, have been served with a stop-work order from the village for deviating from their approved plans. And they will need to begin the zoning application process anew in order to rebuild their house with the previously approved extensions.

Edward Wolfersdorf, the chief building inspector for Quogue, said he noticed that the house was gone when he drove past the property in December, although he was not sure exactly when the demolition took place. He also said that he believed what the contractor told him at the time: that workers mistakenly thought it would be easier to start from scratch with the house, without understanding that razing the home would first require additional approval from Village Hall.

“I think he was going to go forward with the approved project,” Mr. Wolfersdorf said of the contractor, whose name he said he could not remember. “But it just would have been all new.”

The couple will not be fined for illegally razing their home, according to Mr. Wolfersdorf, who explained that they would just have to reapply with the village’s zoning board.

Robert Kelly, an attorney representing Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer in their zoning board applications, said the contractor was supposed to have left about 30 feet of walls intact during the extensive renovations, but knocked them down because he thought it might be easier and cheaper to start from the ground up.

“Had I or my client been aware of it, we would have stopped them,” Mr. Kelly said on Tuesday. “There was no benefit to my client by the builder’s error. We weren’t doing something sneaky ... we already had approval.”

Mr. Kelly also said he could not recall the name of the contractor who demolished his clients’ home.

The small beach house that stood on top of a dune overlooking the ocean on Rogusa Lane had been the subject of a long battle involving Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer and their neighbors to the south, John and Wendy Cooney, who live part-time in a former U.S. Coast Guard station on Dune Road.

In 2005, records show that Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer applied to replace their 1,253-square-foot house with a new, two-story house, but that application was denied by the village’s zoning board.

The couple applied again in 2006, and this time they were looking to build a three-story, 3,042-square-foot house, and the village zoning board initially approved that project. But shortly thereafter, in August of that year, the Cooneys filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer, as well as the Quogue ZBA, charging that the board failed to conduct a rigorous environmental review of the site before it approved the new construction.

In response, the zoning board reopened the case, and the Cooneys agreed to put their lawsuit on hold. In December 2006, Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer presented revised plans for the site, which called for a more modest structure and reduced the number of stories from three to two. Still, zoning board members denied that application in February 2007, reversing their decision from months earlier, and the Cooneys dropped their lawsuit.

The Cooneys, who live for most of the year in Breckenridge, Colorado, did not return calls seeking comment this week.

The dispute died down until April 2008, when Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer filed another application with the Quogue ZBA, this time asking to keep the existing house while adding a 260-square-foot extension to the north side of the first floor, and constructing a 874-square-foot addition to the second floor. Those additions would have increased the floor area of the house to about 2,387 square feet, according to village records.

At the time, the Cooneys sent a letter to the zoning board opposing the revised application, stating that it would have “negative detriments” to their property and others. The letter also states that Mr. MacLean and Ms. Dyer “should have been well aware” of the zoning limitations of the property when they purchased it in 2005.

But in November 2008, the Quogue ZBA approved that plan, saying that the new project was more favorable to neighbors than its previous incarnations. The board also cited the fact that this proposal would qualify as a “non-major addition” to the house under state law, because it would increase the ground coverage area by less than 25 percent.

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No one remembers the name of the contractor ...on a million dollar job....how strange is that.....hard to belive
By DJ9222 (85), southampton on Mar 29, 10 7:53 PM
Maybe he should check the building permit application...He is the building inspector. Makes you wonder.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 29, 10 8:25 PM
lol
By rabbit (65), watermill on Mar 30, 10 8:06 AM
uh, hmmmmmm, uh ..... ignorance is bliss I guess. This might land the contractor in jail unless some truth comes soon.
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Mar 30, 10 9:43 AM
How can you not remember the name of the contractor???
You have got to be kidding
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Mar 30, 10 3:47 PM
Get out your waders, boys and girls.

It's gettin' deep up in here...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 30, 10 8:14 PM
No surprise...The former mayor is on his way to jail, maybe this is another little scandal waiting to explode. I always wondered about a Village that is funded by speeding tickets.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 30, 10 10:18 PM
You think the contractor might be politically connected???? lmao
By DJ9222 (85), southampton on Mar 30, 10 10:29 PM