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Oct 27, 2014 11:19 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Two Property Owners Already Seeking Relief From Southampton Village Building Moratorium

Oct 27, 2014 12:41 PM

It didn’t take long—two property owners already are seeking relief from Southampton Village’s new moratorium on homes taller than 35 feet.

Approved by the Village Board on October 9, the moratorium puts a temporary stop to any building permits being issued for houses more than 35 feet high, even if they have already been reviewed by a planning or architectural board. The moratorium, which can last as long as six months, is intended to allow village officials some time to evaluate height restrictions in light of Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations that often require homes to be built above grade to avoid flooding.

Village officials acknowledged on October 21 that applicants for two homes currently before the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review—at 450 Gin Lane and 320 Murray Place—have already asked to be exempted. The Village Board has decided hear the case for both applications to be exempt from the moratorium at its next meeting on November 13 at 6 p.m. in Village Hall.

Both applicants—Peconic Environmental Associates and Bruce Grossman—are being represented by Southampton attorney John Bennett. Mr. Bennett said both property owners have letters from the Village Building Department written before they purchased their land stating they could build houses to a specific height. Neither proposal goes above the height named in the letter, and pushing back construction could be costly for both parties, Mr. Bennett said.

“In a fair society that protects the rule of the law, reasonable people rely on that law and that reliance should be respected,” Mr. Bennett said. “Without the rule of the law you have chaos. So what, for 30 years people have been relying on this law and someone decides they don’t like it so they don’t uphold it anymore?”

Currently, the village has a 35-foot maximum on height for new construction, but several recent applications have sought to exceed that limit, based on the fact that FEMA requires new construction in a flood plain to be elevated to mitigate flooding. As a result, some proposed homes would be taller than the village limit when measured from ground level.

With the moratorium in effect, review boards are not allowed to weigh or approve new building or alteration applications for homes that would be higher than 35 feet with an altered flood line, or 27 feet for a flat-pitched house. The building inspector is not authorized to grant any further building permits for such homes.

The new house at 450 Gin Lane would be 8,543 square feet, with a gable roof 54 feet above sea level, a garage and a pool in the historic district. The beachfront single-family home, estimated to cost $5 million, had been criticized by neighbors as not in keeping with the traditional shingle-style of the area.

The new house at 320 Murray Place would be 16,829 square feet, with a flat roof 44 feet above sea level, a garage and a pool. The property is not located in the historic district. With the demolition of the old house and construction of the new one, it is estimated on the application with the village that construction will cost $20 million.

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