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Sep 15, 2011 3:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Texas Businessman Sues Sagaponack Village Over Building Restrictions

Sep 21, 2011 11:09 AM

The Texas oilman who is suing one of Sagaponack’s founding families for ownership of their land has filed a lawsuit against Sagaponack Village as well, challenging a coastal protection law that he says is going to force him to rework plans for a beachfront house.

Attorneys for Anthony G. Petrello and his wife, Cynthia, have filed a suit in State Supreme Court challenging the village’s Coastal Erosion Hazard Area law, which prohibits new development within 125 feet of the ocean dunes. The law, which the village adopted in December 2010, would prevent the Petrellos from building the 4,500-square-foot house they have proposed without a variance from the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Mr. Petrello’s attorney, Nica Strunk, said last week that the development restrictions enacted by the village’s coastal hazard law go beyond the authority granted to municipalities by the state. “The state Environmental Conservation Law doesn’t allow regulation landward of the coastal erosion hazard line by municipalities,” she said. “This adjacent area, the 125 feet landward, is not anywhere in the state law. Our position is that this law is … outside of their power as a municipality.”

Ms. Strunk said that the state’s approval of the village law, which mirrors nearly to the letter the Southampton Town Coastal Erosion Hazard Area law and restrictions, was itself improper because it would grant the municipality greater authority than the state’s guidelines would seem to provide for. She also noted that the state had itself determined that the Petrellos’ proposed house was outside of the protections of the coastal erosion hazard zone in 2010, before the village had enacted the law.

Southampton Town enacted a Coastal Erosion Hazard Area law in 1988, prohibiting development within the ocean dunes. In 2001, after nearly a year of research and public hearings, the Town Board adopted an amendment to its law that created the so-called Coastal Erosion Hazard Adjacent Area, extending landward 125 feet from the dunes, expanding the prohibition on development. Ms. Strunk said that she believes the town’s coastal erosion law also steps beyond the authority granted by the state laws, but that the Petrellos’ lawsuit does not raise the issue specifically.

When Sagaponack Village incorporated in 2006, the town’s coastal erosion law ceased to have authority in the new village until the village drafted its own law, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation became the agency of authority in regulating development near the dunes. The state, however, does not place any restrictions on development landward of the dunes, and when the Petrellos introduced the plans for their new house last year, the state ruled that the Petrellos’ proposal was not within its purview.

“The state law does not have the dune setbacks written into the law,” said Marty Shea, Southampton Town’s chief environmental analyst and the administrator of the town’s coastal erosion laws. “The village law expanded the area of jurisdiction beyond that which is regulated by the state, to the boundaries that match the town’s law.”

Deputy Southampton Town Attorney Kathleen Murray said the town believes its law, and the Sagaponack law, are within the purview of the state’s environmental laws, noting that the DEC signed off on both laws. The Petrellos’ suit also names the DEC, saying it approved the laws improperly.

The house the Petrellos have proposed would replace a 1920s-era cottage the White family originally built on the oceanfront boundary of their farmland to house migrant workers during the harvest season. The existing house sits directly on the state-delineated coastal erosion hazard line. The proposed house would be landward of the line but well within the 125-foot limit set by the village and town laws.

According to Sagaponack Village Building Inspector John Woudsma the Petrellos could apply to the village Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance from the coastal erosion law, though he noted it would be unlikely that it would be granted.

Moving the house landward on the property would also pose complications because of the village’s pyramid height restrictions. Mr. Woudsma said getting a variance from the pyramid might be less complicated than from the erosion law.

The existing cottage, and several others like it along the dunes at the southern end of the Whites’ farm, have been rented out to summer visitors in recent decades. The Petrellos rented one of the cottages for several years before reaching an agreement with the Whites to buy 9 acres of their farm, including the 1.5-acre parcel containing the cottage they have proposed razing, on which they planned to build two houses—a deal that has sparked a now well-known battle between the two families.

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Oh yeah.

We "need" these people...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 15, 11 6:45 PM
2 members liked this comment
If you really want to understand "capital markets", read this:

History of Greed: Financial Fraud from Tulip Mania to Bernie Madoff
~ David E. Y. Sarna
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 15, 11 7:06 PM
2 members liked this comment
Like it or not . .. people signed contracts -when the family may have needed the money (? - don't know if that was the case) they signed a contract. All is well nd good until someone puts an "I" out that isn't dotteed, or doesn't cross a "T". Oh well. The "IT" being $$$$$
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 15, 11 11:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
Its about time someone challenged there unconstitutional regulations, No driveway gates higher than four feet whats that about?
By They call me (2826), southampton on Sep 16, 11 8:18 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By YesYesBub (58), East Hampton on Sep 17, 11 4:53 PM
What's that psychological disorder called when you behave like a petulant, spoiled brat through the entirety of your adulthood?

By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 17, 11 5:05 PM
By YesYesBub (58), East Hampton on Sep 18, 11 1:43 PM