On Tuesday night, William Egan received approval from the Sag Harbor ZBA to rebuild the front steps of his Garden Street home. This innocuous sounding variance has far-reaching consequences for the simple reason that it allows Mr. Egan to expand and raise his home in a way that makes neighbors very nervous. In fact, this project has been controversial since it first surfaced eight years ago — it goes forward now due to the fact the plans were recently revised in order to ensure the front steps were the only variance Mr. Egan needed.
Drainage issues abound in the Garden Street area. While Mr. Egan is raising his home to protect it from flooding, as FEMA advises, neighbors believe doing so by building up the topography and installing a retaining wall will not only destroy the character of the neighborhood, but cause even larger flooding issues for them.
We understand the ZBA’s hands were tied with this application, but we agree with residents that this project is detrimental to the community and we don’t see raising homes as a solution for property owners trying to comply with FEMA regulations or prevent flooding when the next storm rolls in.
With Mr. Egan’s project about to become reality, it’s time for the village to get proactive and come up with serious drainage solutions for that neighborhood — and develop legislation to thwart others who might seek solutions similar to Mr. Egan’s. To that end, the village trustees would be wise to look at what other historic communities have done to protect the character of their flood prone neighborhoods. And we don’t think those remedies should involve raising houses with impervious structures like retaining walls or even allowing swimming pools which can exacerbate the situation.
Because by now, we’ve all come to understand — the water’s not receding anytime soon.