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Aug 12, 2009 1:59 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sagaponack trustees consider giving review board authority over every demolition

Aug 12, 2009 1:59 PM

A proposed law under consideration in Sagaponack Village would require all homeowners who want to demolish their houses to get permission first from the village’s Architectural and Historic Review Board.

If the proposal becomes law, the village’s building inspector would not be able to issue a demolition permit until the review board signed off—with no exceptions. The law also gives the board the power to prohibit the “inappropriate alteration” of historic structures, whether they are part of an official historic district or not.

Comments from village residents were largely favorable at a public hearing held Monday afternoon to solicit feedback on the proposed amendments to the zoning code. The Village Board will continue to accept written comments through Friday, August 14.

Many residents hailed the legislation, proposed collectively by the trustees and drafted by Village Attorney Anthony Tohill, for aiming to preserve the village’s history and character.

“Sagaponack is a special place, and this is in large part due to its historic and cultural heritage as manifested in its surviving old homes, farms and other structures,” Gibson Lane resident Barbara French wrote, urging the village trustees and Mayor Donald Louchheim to adopt the law without delay.

“I believe that the amendments should be strengthened as much as possible to prevent any more destruction in the village,” wrote resident Anna Klebnikov.

The law gives the review board wide lattitude to consider whether demolishing or removing a building would cause substantial detriment to the public welfare, using the criteria and standards in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.

If an applicant’s request to raze a building is denied, the applicant would have the option to appeal to the review board on grounds of hardship. The owner could prove hardship only by convincing the board that the property in question could not be sold for a reasonable return, the property cannot be adapted for any other use that would earn a reasonable return, efforts to find a purchaser interested in preserving the property have failed, and the applicant has not been responsible for neglect of the property or has contributed to the hardships.

Buildings considered to be historic structures are not limited to homes and businesses in historic districts. Under the proposal, the review board may label any building historic that it determines is valuable as part of the cultural, political, economic or social history of the village, region, state or nation; is associated with a significant historical event or person; embodies the distinguishing characteristics of a type, period, style or method of architecture or engineering; is the work of an important builder, designer or architect; represents an established and familiar visual or aesthetic of the neighborhood; or contains elements of designs, details, materials or craftsmanship that represent a significant innovation.

Also on Monday, Mr. Louchheim reappointed Marilee Foster to the Zoning Board of Appeals and Clay Dilworth to the architectural board. Elliot Meisel was renamed chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Richard Thayer was reappointed as vice chairman. The four were appointed earlier this year but were not sworn in within 30 days of the Village Board approving the appointments. Therefore, the appointments had expired, requiring that all four be appointed again before they could be sworn in.

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