1920s Nassau Point mansion faces demolition

An eight-bedroom bayfront estate in Cutchogue’s Nassau Point that sold for $8.9 million in 2017 may be demolished to make way for a smaller, more efficient home, according to a variance request presented to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The 15-acre property known as Glendalough was built by Canadian investment banker William Justus Keough Vanston in 1926. It was passed down through three generations of the Vanston family, Northforker previously reported.

When the property sold in 2017, it became the highest bayfront residential sale in North Fork history, according to prior reports. It was sold to Andrew Beck, who resides in New York City.

The estate would be replaced with a smaller, 3,000-square-foot home with an attached garage and in-ground swimming pool. Under the plan, a three-bedroom cottage, or carriage house, on the property, intended for friends and family, would be renovated internally and externally to include a 339-square-foot deck which requires a variance.

Rob Herrmann of En-Consultants, an environmental consulting firm based in Southampton, discussed the proposed variances at Thursday’s ZBA meeting. He said his client, Vanston Bear LLC, has no concern for demolishing the nearly century-old house.

“It’s not considered a historic home or recognized that way, it’s just been around for a very, very long time,” he said after the hearing.

One variance seeks permission to build the home 100 feet from a “minor” bluff, Mr. Herrmann said. 

If the home isn’t built on the bluff, he said, the architect can’t build on the existing, excavated foundation of the house. Mr. Herrmann said topographic issues, like a hill blocking access to the front of the house, would also arise if the home isn’t built on the bluff. 

“By reconstructing and relocating the house, the applicants can create this smaller, more efficient, modernized dwelling, that will sit lower on the landscape,” Mr. Herrmann said.

A new sanitary system and drainage system, along with a smaller lot size, Mr. Herrmann said, will help alleviate environmental concerns on the potential build. 

ZBA Chairperson Leslie Kanes Weisman said in 2015, prior to the property purchase, the cottage was modified without building permits. While minor changes to the cottage were approved, a three-bedroom space has not been approved by the building department, she said. Therefore, the variance must encompass the three bedrooms and any other changes.

“You’re proposing a very large expansion of that original cottage to create habitable space in the entire structure,” she said.

David Ericsson of Lake Flato Architects said when the property was being sold, the existing carriage house was pitched as a three-bedroom — meaning at the time, the anticipated changes to the carriage house appeared to be minimal.

Ms. Kanes Weisman read an excerpt from an affidavit submitted by Charles Braatz, the grandson of the cottage and home builder, from June 12, 2015.

“ ‘I clearly remember my grandfather’s chauffeur residing in the cottage during the summers of my early childhood,’ ” she read. “ ‘This cottage remains on the property today. As an adult, I have returned to the property to visit every several years. The current garage was built and the original garage joining the cottage was converted into habitable space. That conversion was done without building permits.’ ”

Mr. Herrmann said he was unaware of the issue, but said it does not coincide with the variances since it was prior to the  purchase. 

Two neighbors, who both live on Vanston Road, supported the demolition. 

Patricia Harrison of Cutchogue provided the board with information about the cottage. She said she oversaw rentals in the 1960’s for the Braatzes when they were out of town.

“My family has been out here since 1930. In the ’60s, that cottage was rented out in the summertime and no repairs were ever made on it,” she said. “I’m thrilled with what [the owners] are doing with the property. I can’t speak for the whole neighborhood, but a lot of us are thrilled from what they’re doing.”

Ms. Weisman said the Zoning Board will wait to receive input from town trustees next week in regards to environmental and wetlands concerns on the property.

The Zoning Board will hold a special meeting Feb. 21 and render a decision in up to four weeks, she said.

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Photo caption: The property located at 5250 Vanston Road in Cutchogue sold for a record $8.9 million in 2017. (Courtesy photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty)