The East Hampton Village Board is considering a new historic preservation program that would designate 25 individual properties outside of the historic district as Timber-Frame Landmarks.
Robert Hefner, the village's director of historic services, prepared the proposal around some of the oldest and rarest buildings, constructed between 1700 and 1850. Despite two other proposed laws, presented as incentives for the owners whose properties would be landmarked, that would allow the owners to build an accessory dwelling on the property, the reaction was mixed.
Hefner told the board during the hearings for the proposed laws on Friday that these 25 building (a list can be found below) are critical contributors to the character of the village. They range from the former Methodist Episcopal Church on Spaeth Lane, now a private residence, to the Dominy Shops on Further Lane.
"It's this character of the melding of nature, culture and history that underpins our economy. The loss of anyone of these buildings diminishes the richness, meaningfulness, and the uniqueness of the village," he said.
"These buildings tell stories about farming life and the whaling industry. They tell stories about the Revolutionary War, such as the attack on the John Dayton house where Captain Dayton is reported to have shot a British soldier," Hefner said.
They also include the original Rowdy Hall on Egypt Lane, a saltbox. "East Hampton is known for its salt box houses. We have more more here than any other municipality on Long Island," Hefner said, adding that only five are protected on the Main Street Historic District, including Mulford Farm and Home Sweet Home. There are seven outside the district that remain unprotected.
The Hayground Mill on Windmill Lane, built in 1809, is also on the list. East Hampton Village is the only municipality in the country with a total of four windmills. The Hayground Mill is the only one that is privately owned, according to Hefner.
If designated landmarks, the village is proposing that sister-amendments be made that will allow some of the maximum permitted gross floor area for the primary dwelling to be allocated to an accessory dwelling, such as a guest house, on the same lot. The additional unit can't exceed 35-percent of the maximum permitted gross floor area or 3,000 square feet, whichever is less, and the accessory cannot have more than four bedrooms.
"Most of the Timber-Frame Landmark houses are modest in size, far smaller than the maximum gross floor area provisions of the Zoning Code would allow," the proposed law states. "This law will promote the preservation of these buildings by allowing them to be preserved in tact to the greatest possible extent, without stripping property owners of the rights they may otherwise have to increase the habitable residential space."
"Just as these building reach far back into the past, in adopting this program, the village will be looking far into the future, insuring that the buildings will be enjoyed by future generations," Heftner said.
Anthony Pasca, an attorney with the firm of in Riverhead, said his client, Patrick Gerschel wants to support the village program, but doesn't want to participate. He acquired the Edward Mulford House in 1985, and had it moved from Pantigo Road to 34 Hither Ln. He refurbished it and added on a sunroom, but has kept the building's integrity overall, Pasca said.
"Instead of creating this program as 'a take-effect immediately, we're imposing this on you against your will,' tweak it a little bit and turn it into more of an opt-in type of incentive program," Pasca told the board.
"If it's a win-win, everyone's going to participate in this," he said. However, for people, like his client, who don't want to think about development their lot right now, "you would be showing them a little bit of respect for being the good stewards that they've been and not imposing this against their will and not affecting their property right and property values without their voluntary participation."
Pasca said that the village's idea, if tweaked, could serve as a model for other municipalities.
He is also concerned about the ratio for developing the property. The formula, he said, doesn't work for bigger parcels. His clients' historic house, for instance, is currently just over 3,500 square feet, but the parcel could hold a house of 9,500 gross square footage. Under the ratio the village is proposing, his clients could only have 6,000 gross square feet on the property.
Alice Cooley, an attorney at Maclachlan & Eagan law firm in East Hampton, said the landmark designation is a great burden for homeowners. Her clients, Eugene and Jackie Williams, who own the Miller House at 29 Jones Rd., feel there is "no public benefit to designating a private home that can't even be viewed from the road."
Joan Osborne, who lives on Main Street and whose family has strong roots in town, said she was worried that this qualified as "spot-zoning" and that the accessory dwelling proposal allows for two-family houses. Also, she said, if there is an historic house and a newer house on a property, "In difficult times, which is going to be maintained?"
But, Noel Berk, who owns the Talmage Jones House at 132 Montauk Hwy. and has been in real estate for 30 years, said she support the initiative. "If we don't continue doing historic preservation, the whole nature of our village and country with change," she told the board.
Sherrill Dayton, whose family homestead at 35 Toilsome Ln. is known as the Josiah Dayton House, commended the village board. "There's not many houses left with timber frame construction," he said, adding that a real estate agent once told him his house would be an immediate tear-down for a new owner.
Under the proposed program, Dayton said, "You get to keep your house and possibly give a family member the chance to live in the village or possibly have the opportunity to earn extra income to help maintain that old house or property," he said.
The Ladies Village Improvement Society supported the proposals, on the recommendation of its landmarks and community awareness committee, as did Richard Barons, the executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society.
Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said some "legitimate thoughts" were raised at the hearings. The board decided to keep the hearings open until the next board work session on Dec. 3 at 11 a.m.
The proposed historic landmarks are as follows:
- Phoebe Huntting House, 21 Hither Ln.
- Rowdy Hall, 111 Egypt Ln
- William Babcock House, 70 Middle Ln.
- Joseph Osborn House, 19 Pudding Hill Ln.
- Barnes-Hassam House, 48 Egypt Ln.
- Isaac Hedges House, 61 North Main St.
- Noah Barnes House, 15 Georgica Rd.
- Conklin-Eldredge House, 2 Hither Ln.
- Miller House, 29 Jones Rd.
- John Dayton House, 291 Montauk Hwy.
- Gansett House, 117 Egypt Ln.
- Miller Dayton House, 19 Toilsome Ln.
- Edward Mulford House, 34 Hither Ln.
- Josiah Dayton House, 35 Toilsome Ln.
- Baldwin Cook Talmage House, 10 Cove Hollow Rd.
- Fulling Mill Farm, 258 Georgica Rd.
- William Sherman House, 129 Egypt Ln.
- Hiram Sanford House, 13 Egypt Ln.
- Stafford Hedges House, 50 Cross Hwy.
- Talmage Jones House, 132 Montauk Hwy.
- Ezekiel Jones House, 128 Montauk Hwy.
- Nathan Barnes House, 15 Amy's Ct.
- Dominy Shops, 62 Further Ln.
- Hayground Windmill, 33 Windmill Ln.
- Methodist Episcopal Church, 10 Spaeth Ln.