By Kathryn G. Menu
Following protest over the use of synthetic materials in the Watchcase townhouses on Church and Sage streets in Sag Harbor, Cape Advisors — the firm developing the luxury condominium project — agreed this week to ensure siding was natural wood or brick masonry.
Developers also agreed to look at toning down roof colors, changing the aluminum-clad doors on the townhouses to natural wood, and to research whether chimney structures on the townhouses can also be constructed with brick.
Cape Advisors made the concessions at a Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) meeting Monday — a meeting where residents and applicants alike questioned the precedent created in allowing the development to use synthetic materials in the historic district.
The Sag Harbor Village code specifically calls for the avoidance of “synthetic siding or shutters or timbers or other exterior materials.”
Looking at the original 2008 approval, Hardiplank — a fiber cement siding was originally approved for two of the townhouses, although has now been changed back to white clapboard in both cases. The roof material approved is a synthetic fiberglass in various shades and the windows, like those on the factory building are aluminum clad wood windows.
“I think it is hard to see right now because you can’t see the complete project, but I think we are certainly going to explore that,” said Arthur Blee, director of design and construction for Cape Advisors, when asked to tone down the colors of the roof material by ARB member Christine Patrick.
Resident Bob Weinstein, a member of Save Sag Harbor, also wondered if developers might consider changing out the windows for wood clad windows — as has historically been required in the historic district.
“It just seems it is an ongoing precedent setting problem,” said Weinstein.
Save Sag Harbor member Myrna Davis also read a letter from the board of the not-for-profit.
“We started receiving complaints about the appearance of the new townhouses being constructed on the Bulova site, now know as the Watchcase Project a number of weeks ago,” said Davis. “The comments came from neighboring property owners and other village residents.”
Davis, who noted the organization has supported this project, calling it one of the most important in village history, said the construction of the townhouses has been a disappointment.
“The scale of each is too big for the surrounding properties; the design of bungalows or ‘Mews’ housing beneath the main houses, with entrances below grade, is unrelated to anything ever built in the village; and then several of the materials selected for finishing were completely inappropriate for a 300-year-old historic village that is a locally and nationally designated Historic District. Therefore the planned use of predominantly synthetic materials on the doors, roofs, chimneys and facades was of particular concern, as are the installed aluminum windows.”
Davis noted synthetic materials have not been approved for individual homeowners. Any changes in allowed materials, stated the letter, should be considered as changes to the code and be subject to public hearing.
“Apply the ARB code equally,” states the letter. “If the criteria do not include synthetic materials, particularly facing streets and other public ways, then all applicants should be required to comply, which would hopefully result in fair and consistent enforcement.”