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Jan 15, 2016 12:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor Settles With Village Homeowners Who Had Their Expansion Plans Tied Up

The home at 10 Jefferson Street, that was stuck in the moratorium after having an application to construct tabled by the ARB eight times. ALISHA STEINDECKER
Jan 29, 2016 4:31 PM

Sag Harbor Village has settled with three different property owners, including two who filed lawsuits alleging that its Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review purposely dragged its feet on their respective applications, giving the Village Board time to adopt a six-month moratorium on all construction last summer that was later challenged by residents.

The settlements, reached earlier this month, will allow the three property owners—Evan and Antonia DiPaolo, Michael Gaynor, and Steven Barr and Frank Ahimaz—to proceed with their building and expansion plans.

“We are pleased to confirm that on January 8, 2016, in New York State Supreme Court, Justice Gerard Asher ordered the agreement between the village and the DiPaolo family implemented,” said Alex Kriegsman, the attorney representing the family.

The DiPaolos, who had their plans to build a second house on their Jefferson Street property tabled eight times over two years by the village’s ARB for various reasons, sued the village in November—five months after the Village Board adopted a moratorium on all construction in response to an influx of similar applications.

While reviewing the application filed in October 2013, members of the review board cited the unique shape of the 0.70-acre lot, which is narrow in the front and wide in the back, as a reason for not signing off on the application. But that board, for reasons still unclear, had instead urged the DiPaolos to build the second home on the front of their property, the narrow portion that lies closer to the street, a proposition that would have required many more additional variances.

The board tabled the application for the eighth and final time on June 22, about a week before the moratorium took effect.

Further confusing things the board, on the same day, also issued the DiPaolos a favorable memorandum, essentially signing off on their plans to build a 4,262-square-foot house on the rear of their property, as they had originally requested. Board members did not, however, actually sign off on the application.

According to Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr., the village agreed to settle with the DiPaolos this month because the memo written by the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review in June essentially was indirect approval.

“I think the feeling of the village, from a fairness point of view, is that they had their ZBA approval,” Mr. Thiele said. “If the ARB had actually voted on June 22, they would have had all their permits before the moratorium went into effect.”

Anthony Brandt, chairman of the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, said, "We were esentially given no choice."

Mr. Thiele noted that the DiPaolos never requested an exemption from the moratorium and instead opted to sue the village over the constant tabling. It was not until earlier this month that other village residents started to question the legality of the village’s six-month building ban after learning that the Village Board had never filed the appropriate associated paperwork with the Suffolk County Planning Commission, which is required by law.

That moratorium, which expired earlier this month, has been replaced with a newer, less-restrictive ban that will remain in place until the village finishes revising its zoning code later this year.

Village officials, meanwhile, reached a second similar settlement on January 15 with Michael Gaynor, who had filed a similar lawsuit against the village after its architectural review board repeatedly tabled his application to expand and renovate his 2,591-square-foot home that sits on 0.38 acre. 
In his suit, filed in September 2015, Mr. Gaynor argued that the review board acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it would not allow him to expand his Madison Street home.

Earlier in the process, Mr. Gaynor had offered to donate $100,000 to the village so it could fix up the Old Burying Ground, where Revolutionary War soldiers are buried, but Mr. Thiele said at the time that such a donation would be illegal. As part of the latest agreement, Mr. Gaynor will be allowed to expand his home to just over 3,000 square feet in size.

Lastly, the village also settled with Steven Barr and Frank Ahimaz—recipients of the Sag Harbor Historical Society’s 2003 Annual Award for the restoration and renovation of their home at 43 Madison Street—who alleged that they had been unfairly treated by several village boards when they filed an application to expand and renovate their home. The property owners, prior to settling with the village earlier this month, had threatened to sue the municipality after the review board also tabled their application multiple times.

Through their attorney, Mr. Kriegsman, Mr. Barr and Mr. Ahimaz had accused the community organization, Save Sag Harbor, for having a heavy-handed role in the successful delay of their expansion plans, which had been on the table since June 2014. According to Mr. Kriegsman, his clients have secured their certificate of appropriateness from the village and will receive their building permit as soon as the Suffolk County Health Department approves their plans.

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Judge slaps Thiele should be the headline. Throw Thiele out
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 15, 16 4:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Once again..."Moratorium" Greek for "I do not know what I am doing"
By The Real World (368), southampton on Jan 15, 16 4:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
The village spent money to defend this lawsuit, and was never advised to file the moratorium with the county. Boy Fred Thiele personal vendetta is getting expensive.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 15, 16 8:58 PM
Fred Thiele thinks he settled with the applicants? ROFLMAO. A Supreme Court ordered Thiele to settle with the applicants. Supreme court justices constantly crush these local villages when they take away peoples property rights. I'm glad a local attorney like Alex Kriegsman took Thiele head on and crushed him. Fred Thiele is a real piece of work costing taxpayers to defend lawsuits the village can't win.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 16, 16 2:38 PM
You have a picture of the wrong house.
By Elliver (20), southampton on Jan 24, 16 7:08 PM
Dump Fred Thiele.

His arrogance and deceitful ways have no place here.

Congratulations Mike Gaynor. (Must be the hat!)
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jan 30, 16 8:01 AM