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Sep 29, 2014 11:42 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Proposed Modern House For Gin Lane Continues Debate About Historic Districts

Sep 29, 2014 11:42 AM

Southampton Village residents once again are protesting the approval of a house in a historic district that they believe will look too modern.

The proposal, which was submitted to the village on June 17, is for a new beachfront single-family home at 450 Gin Lane. The estimated $5 million home would be a flat-roofed structure set apart from the traditional shingle style the historic district is known for.

Last week, the village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review held open a public hearing on the proposed house to allow neighbors ample time to present their concerns to the board before it makes a decision. At an ARB meeting on October 13, attorney Jeff Bragman—who represents one neighbor, Neil Smith—plans to present his opposition to the house, saying it could set a dangerous precedent moving forward.

“This case is really about the heart of the village of Southampton and the historic district,” Mr. Bragman said last week. “This is a section of the village where most of the historic architecture still exists and this property was bought in a historic district, which has extra protections. Any new construction must meet standards and guidelines and our basic complaint—and I think the complaint of many neighbors—is that the building makes no effort whatsoever to be compatible.”

The area is zoned for three-acre residential lots. Architect Blaze Makoid has proposed a two-story, 8,543-square-foot house along with a 1,239-square-foot garage and a pool. It would replace Sandhurst, the 1882 house built by Dr. T. Gaillard Thomas that has already been demolished.

The owner of the proposed house, Bruce Grossman, says his family has made several alterations to the design based on feedback from the board and from what neighbors suggested at ARB meetings.

“I think it is clear to anyone who knows us that the last thing we are interested in doing is something that is not viewed favorably by the community,” he said at last week’s meeting. “We are sensitive to the issues of your board and what you are trying to accomplish, and we are very much sensitive to our neighbors, and the last thing we want to do is come to a community and offend and upset people. We came to this design because we felt it was the best path for everyone concerned.”

Mr. Grossman also said he believes many of the problems Mr. Bragman’s client has with the house, including proximity to his own home, are caused by work Mr. Smith has done on his own property.

“Many of his problems will be because he has several variances on his own property,” Mr. Grossman said. “We have addressed as many of the concerns we feel comfortable addressing and we are at the end of the line for what we are prepared to do to accommodate those concerns.”

But according to Mr. Bragman, the historic district is in jeopardy if modern houses like this one—as well as a recently approved house at 40 Meadow Lane—continue to be allowed. Mr. Bragman also said that people are aware of the construction, renovation and building requirements when purchasing a house or property in the historic district, and that the regulations in place by the village should be enforced.

“I think the worry is that cumulatively this spells out the end of the character for the historic district in an area that is really one of the most meaningful sections of the village,” Mr. Bragman said. “Our approach is that there are rules and procedures in place to protect this district that must be followed and our belief, our position, is that this applicant has not followed those procedures.”

Mr. Grossman’s attorney, John Bennett, did not return calls seeking comment this week.

The application will be discussed at the next ARB meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, October 14, at 7 p.m. at Village Hall.

“It is something that residents of the village should be very alarmed about,” Mr. Bragman said about the proposal for a modern-looking house. “This is something they are voicing their concerns about to the village boards. It will take action to save the architectural heritage of this village.”

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What we should worry about is neighbors telling people how their house must look.
By SHResident (59), Southampton on Sep 30, 14 9:31 AM
2 members liked this comment
They knowingly bought property in a historic district. End of line.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 30, 14 4:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
It's about time a neighbor called the village on the carpet with a good, tough lawyer. Neighbors in an historic district have a justifiable expectation that new structures and additions will blend in. People who want a modern glass house need to buy outside of historic districts. Village boards have a duty, which they have been shirking badly, to enforce code regulations that were put on the books to protect the unique sense of place in the village's historic district.
By oystercatcher (126), southampton on Sep 30, 14 11:01 AM
I completely disagree that there is anything justifiable about the neighbors expectations. If most people in an area don't want a modern house, then most houses won't be modern, it's as simple as that. You don't need to tell your neighbor what to do.
By SHResident (59), Southampton on Sep 30, 14 11:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
You do not understand the nature of Historic Districts. This modern house does not meet Historic District criteria. Neighbors have very right to expect that any building in the Historic District will comply with existing written regulations designed to protect the historic nature of the district. Neighbors have to resort to fighting a modern house in an historic district when village boards fail to do their job upholding long standing codes. As has happened here. Outside of the historic district ...more
By oystercatcher (126), southampton on Sep 30, 14 12:25 PM
The house isn't on any registry. Just because something is in the historic zone doesn't mean the village can stop demolition. You people who are blaming the ARB are ignorant to facts of what a historic district is.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 30, 14 5:29 PM
Individual houses within an historic district do not need to be on a registry, and the village does have the legal ability to prevent teardowns for rebuilds. That's why a permit is required. The ARB is charged with upholding the regulations of the historic district, which means making sure whatever is built in it is compatible with the rest of historic district. Its members have not been doing their jobs and deserve blame. Glass boxes are not compatible.
By moonpie (43), Southampton on Sep 30, 14 10:47 PM
Ah, but it's the Village. This is a done deal. Comments mr. Mayor? Ms. McGann? What's your position. Let's hear from a trustee or two. Are you in favor if this plan? Do you agree that the historic district should be protected to preserve what's left if the character of this place. It would be nice to hear from an elected leader, eh? So, doesn't everyone think the Press should interview the trustees on this important vote? I do. Get them on record.
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Oct 1, 14 9:00 AM