Southampton Village ZBA Approves Mocomanto And Despatch Applications
By Greg WehnerTwo highly scrutinized projects within the Southampton Village historic district—on the Mocomanto and Despatch properties—were approved by the Village Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday night, although one was not unanimous.
After five years of going back and forth with an application to subdivide two properties at 550 and 554 Hill Street including Despatch Self Storage, sitting board member and property owner James Zuhusky finally got the variances required to subdivide the 2.8 acres into three lots.
Members of the ZBA on Thursday also approved a wetlands permit that gets Ken Fox—a managing partner at the Stripes Group who has been instrumental in financing companies like Blue Apron, GoFundMe and Grubhub—one step closer to nearly doubling the size of his century-old Victorian home on Lake Agawam at 472 First Neck Lane, known as Mocomanto.
Already handicapped because of board member Mr. Zuhusky’s absence, the board voted 3-1 in favor of the permit, with Kevin Guidera, Mark Greenwald and Dan Guzewicz voting to approve the application and Rob DeVinney voting against.
Mr. Fox is looking to have a 1½-story addition built onto his house that would increase the gross floor area by 52 percent, from 4,717 square feet to 7,190 square feet, which is 44 percent of the maximum allowed GFA of 16,071 square feet.
Like an island, the existing home sits completely in the regulated wetland setback. The homeowner is proposing an “L-shaped” attachment, of which only 592 square feet of the footprint would fall within the regulated wetlands setback. A special exception permit authorizing building on the regulated wetland area was required to construct the connector to the addition.
“The proposed design respects the environment by not extending the addition to the north, east, or south of the existing residence in the wetland area but seeks to cross the regulated area through the connector,” the decision read.
Over the course of three hearings, neighbors, lawyers and environmental experts all provided statements, records and studies about why the project should, or should not, be approved. The board noted in its decision that the prominent arguments were that standards should be applied that are applicable to zoning variances for the permit, the Southampton Village Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation should review the application before the ZBA approves it, a pool house on the property that was rebuilt in 2014 after the original was burned down was illegally constructed with an extended patio, the number of rooms need to be reviewed for accuracy and underground leaching pools were installed, along with a driveway, without the necessary permits.
Ultimately, all of the arguments fell flat with ZBA members with the exception of the pool house and the leaching pools. In order for the wetlands permit to be issued, the owner is required to restore the pool patio to its original configuration, which Mr. Fox and his team have agreed to comply with. The board is also requesting that any leaching pools within the regulated wetland setback be removed, and according to Southampton Village-based attorney John Bennett, who is representing Mr. Fox, that won’t be an issue because the leaching pools don’t fall within that setback.
The applicant also proposed a 40-foot wetland buffer, which the board requested be extended to 50 feet.
As to the Despatch property, Mr. Zuhusky’s application for variances allowing the subdivision of two parcels that cover 2.8 acres and currently contains two houses as well as Despatch Self Storage, was also approved on Thursday night by members of the very board he sits on, though a request to build guest homes on two of the properties was denied.
Mr. Zuhusky proposed building one half-acre lot and a pair of lots that would be about 1.1 acres each. A variance was required from the ZBA because the properties are in two separate zoning districts, R-40 and R-120.
Board members voted to approve the variances on the condition that Mr. Zuhusky use innovative alternative wastewater treatment systems approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services for each property.
Mr. Zuhusky is also required to have the nonconforming buildings on the property completely demolished.
“It is indisputable that the nonconforming industrial storage/warehouse use and the long narrow nonconforming lots are incompatible with the current residentially zoned neighborhood,” the decision read.
The decision went on to say that what was being proposed was compatible with the character of the neighborhood.
The project was criticized during the application process—which began in August 2012—by neighbors because of the proposed density as well as Mr. Zuhusky’s ownership of the property. The decision notes that Mr. Zuhusky recused himself from the proceedings each time the application was brought up.
“Mr. Zuhusky did not personally appear before the board and all presentations on the matter were made by the applicant’s agents,” the decision read.
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