The Southold Board of Trustees has blocked ambitious plans to expand a small structure next to Kenney’s Beach in Southold from a roughly 900-square-foot bungalow to a two-story, 1,900-square-foot house.
In a July 20 resolution, the board voted to deny Southold Sunsets LLC’s plan without prejudice, saying it broke town codes they claim prevent expansions of more than 25 percent for properties in coastal waterfront erosion areas.
“A granting of a house of this size … really would open the floodgates to hugely incompatible development and really rip apart community character,” said board president John Bredemeyer.
While the property owner’s attorney said his client will come back with a new plan that meets the Trustees’ requirements and that he didn’t plan to appeal the ruling, Mr. Bredemeyer said he fears this instance is the “first salvo” in an upcoming “assault” by other property owners on the town’s coastal building rules.
“This is a new front that has been opened up against the sanctity of what should be our beaches and dunes,” Mr. Bredemeyer said.
The property that drew controversy is a third-of-an-acre plot located directly next to the Kenney’s Beach parking lot. In order to expand the house, Southold Sunsets would need permits from the Board of Trustees and a pair of variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
ZBA chair Leslie Kanes Weisman couldn’t be reached for comment this week, as she was out of town.
Almost immediately, the plan drew criticism from neighbors, whose attorney, William Goggins of Mattituck, called the plan “completely out of control.” An attorney for Southold Sunsets, Michael Kimack of Riverhead, had said the bungalow needed to be expanded to address potential flooding conditions near the Sound.
In an interview this week, Mr. Kimack said he was surprised by the ruling, claiming the board hadn’t indicated a rejection would be coming during three previous private meetings.
Mr. Kimack said the board made “major discrepancies and mistakes” in their resolutions; he feels including a deck area in the property’s size calculation was incorrect.
“They made it seems much larger than it really was,” he said. “Granted, it was bigger than the 25 percent.”
Mr. Kimack said his client would respect the board’s wishes and reconsider a way to “conform with what they put in the resolutions.”
“I’ve got no choice on this one,” Mr. Kimack said.
Mr. Kimack said he was sympathetic to the board’s needs. It’s a challenge, he said, to “strike a balance” between protecting waterfront properties and allowing property owners to improve their lots.
“The board has a difficult task before them,” he said. “It’s getting much more complicated nowadays to make sure you have a handle on all the codes, the DEC regulations … everything that may come to bear on the property.”
Mr. Bredemeyer said the Southold Sunsets plan was the latest attempt to build on what he called “extremely substandard lots.” Mr. Bredemeyer said many similar lots exist throughout town, and with sea levels rising, “more and more properties like this are going to become more and more distressed.”
That could lead more property owners to attempt to build out their homes, he said. Mr. Bredemeyer said the Trustees are already swamped with dozens of applications per month, in addition to having to run special programs and a vessel pump-out program.
“The workload this year has been absolutely crushing,” he said.
Board members are part-time employees, but Mr. Bredemeyer said there isn’t enough full-time staff to handle the applications.
“We’re stretched as thin as we can go,” he said.
Photo caption: The Southold Sunsets property adjacent to Kenney’s Beach, where the LLC had proposed to tear down and reconstruct the home on a larger scale. (Credit: Paul Squire)