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Proposal to demolish Orient home remains in limbo

The fate of an Orient home slated for demolition remains in limbo until the Southold Historic Preservation Commission submits an opinion to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The homeowners of the 1,827-square-foot home in Orient’s historic district have proposed tearing it down to replace it with a 3,341-square-foot home.It sits on the corner of Skippers Lane, adjacent to Poquatuck Park. The proposal was originally about 100 square feet larger, but it has since decreased after several meetings with the historic commission, according to representative Patricia Moore.

The applicants, Lenore Brancato and Louis Potters, were not present at the ZBA public hearing Thursday afternoon.

They are requesting a variance from the ZBA to exceed maximum lot coverage. They are .93 percent over the maximum amount allowed, which is 20 percent, but that is largely due to the Historic Preservation Commission’s request to keep the existing two-car garage structure.

They are also seeking a variance for the front yard setback of 30.4 feet instead of 35 feet. Ms. Moore and architect Peter Cook said it would be possible to meet that zoning requirement, however, the historic commission has asked they keep the current footprint, which does not comply with the zone. There was originally a third variance proposed for the setback on Skippers Lane, but since the average setback of the area is 20 feet, that is also allowed for this new proposal.

The current house that may be demolished. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

ZBA chairperson Leslie Kanes Weisman said that the board does not have the power to deny the applicants permission to demolish the house; it only has authority to deny variance requests. The Historical Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing at 2:15 p.m. Nov. 27. The ZBA will not make a decision on the requested variances until after that hearing.

When asked if the existing building is salvageable, Mr. Cook said nothing about the property is architecturally significant.

“The house is clad in asbestos. It has aluminum siding over all the trim outside,” he said. “Once you strip everything off this house that is either something environmentally you wouldn’t want in your home today, or architecturally unpleasant or not significant to the neighborhood, you might end up with a substandard frame.”

He added that the structure was built in approximately 1938 and wouldn’t pass current building codes. An addition was added to the house in the 1970s.

Ms. Moore said there is a “considerable amount of mold” in the current structure, along with lead paint.

“My client has a house that when it was inspected, there [were] so many deficiencies, that quite frankly, it is a safer house if it is a demolition,” she said.

A model of the proposed house on display at the ZBA meeting. (Credit: Rachel Siford)

Residents at the public hearing spoke to the historical significance to the character of the neighborhood, even it may not be considered an attractive structure. Ms. Moore said the proposed house was a modest size, which provoked a room-wide chuckle from about a dozen residents.

Freddie Wachsberger of Orient said the historical importance is more than just how the house looks, but how it represents the village as a whole historically.

“It was a very modest village and the houses reflect the modesty of the community, so size is more than just relative views, it actually describes and informs us about who lived there,” she said.

“All of this, it seems to me, is an attempt to ignore what the particular purpose is as a historic district,” Ms. Wachsberger added.

In September, residents packed a Historic Preservation Commission meeting when the proposal was first discussed.

Photo caption: Patricia Moore, representing the homeowners, spoke at Thursday’s ZBA public hearing. (Credit: Rachel Siford)

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