In July 2014, a corporation named Southold Sunsets bought a small beach cottage on a third of an acre adjacent to Kenney’s Beach in Southold.
The company name surely derives from the location of the property, which abuts the beach parking lot, where many local residents sit in their cars to watch the sun sink slowly into Long Island Sound.
The new owner’s plans for the parcel, however, have neighbors complaining that their nightly view of this natural occurrence could soon be interrupted.
That’s because Southold Sunsets has submitted plans to tear down the existing 900-square-foot structure at 4200 Kenney Road and replace it with a two-story 1,900-square-foot house on top of a 15-foot piling structure. With decking the new structure would be 2,700 square feet.
“It’s a completely out-of-control application,” said Mattituck attorney Bill Goggins, who represents homeowners in the Kenney’s Beach area who object to the proposal, which requires permits from the Southold Town Board of Trustees as well as a pair of variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals. “Property owners in the area are pretty upset,” he said.
Attorney Michael Kimack of Riverhead appeared on the property owner’s behalf at a ZBA hearing last Thursday, claiming a hardship and arguing that the home, which is in the flood zone and in poor condition, needs to be raised, making the build-out necessary.
“No matter what we do, it’s going to be new construction,” Mr. Kimack said after Mr. Goggins and a neighbor from North Sea Drive both spoke in opposition to the proposal.
In order to move forward with construction, Southold Sunsets needs front and side yard setback variances from the ZBA. The owner must also receive wetlands and coastal erosion permits from the Town Trustees for the waterfront property, which is entered from the public parking lot at the beach.
ZBA chair Leslie Kanes Weisman expressed a lack of support for increasing the size of the house, but appeared open to the idea of raising it.
“The thought of putting a one-story, something similar to what’s there, on pilings so that it is not a massive in-your-face house sitting on a public parking lot and beach is something that perhaps is worthy of consideration,” she told Mr. Kimack.
Ms. Weisman urged Mr. Kimack to arrange for a hearing before the Board of Trustees and then take that testimony to the Town Board.
“I don’t think that it’s the zoning board’s responsibility to permit new construction 100 percent within the coastal erosion area,” she said.
In an interview following the meeting, Mr. Kimack said he doesn’t see anything written in the town code that would lead to the outright rejection of his client’s application.
“In the zoning, is there a consideration for the neighbor’s visibility? I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t see it.”
At last Thursday’s hearing, Ms. Weisman referred to the “balancing test” the ZBA is faced with.
“We’re not here to take away property rights, but we are here to protect the balance between the rights of property owners and the welfare of the community,” she said.
Mr. Goggins argued in an interview after the meeting that if the homeowner’s wishes were always to rebuild the house, those plans should have been made clear when the property was purchased for $750,000 in 2014. He took exception to Southold Sunsets’ hardship claim.
“You claim a hardship when you have a situation where you want to maintain status quo but can’t because of circumstances,” he said. “It’s not a hardship when you want to build a bigger, better house.”
Mr. Kimack said at the hearing Southold Sunsets – which is registered at the same address as a real estate company in Queens — comprises “two or three” families who plan to use at it as a vacation home. He said one of the reasons the proposed new construction is so large is that the families have disabled kids, a comment that caught Ms. Weisman’s attention in light of the proposed staircase to the first floor of the house.
“That’s going to be fun getting them up those stairs,” she remarked.
“Not that disabled,” Mr. Kimack replied.