By Claire Walla
Anthony Petrello is one step closer to developing his beachfront land.
Last Friday, July 15 the Sagaponack Architectural and Historic Review Board (AHRB) voted in favor of an application submitted by the Texas businessman to demolish the small cottage now resting on the grounds of the nine-acre parcel he purchased from the White family in 1998. The property deed was formally transferred to his name last year.
The board voted four to one, with one absentee: Tom White. AHRB Chairwoman Ann Sandford was the lone voice of dissent, but not because she believed the building necessarily needed to be preserved on the existing site. In fact, she said she agreed with other board members that the building’s history and current condition do not actually make it historically significant.
“I voted against [the existing application for demolition] because there was another version of the [application] that allowed for an option for a third party to work with the Petrellos so that if they came up with a mutually agreed upon plan they could move the cottage to another location,” Sanford explained in an interview.
“From my perspective, a lot of people had done research; they had gotten a hold of some families [who had lived in the cottage],” she continued. “I felt that it would benefit the community to leave that option open.”
At a public hearing on June 24, the AHRB heard from several Sagaponack residents who appealed for the preservation of the building, claiming it to be a piece of Sagaponack’s history.
The 585-square-foot building on Petrello’s property is known as “Meighan’s Cottage,” and until Petrello bought the property on which it sits, “Meighan’s” was one of six small structures that had been rented out every summer for decades. (The other five are still owned by the White family). It is also thought to be the oldest, having been built in the late 1930s.
A report submitted to the AHRB that summarizes the history of the cottage highlights the fact that these cottages are the last of their kind in the village. Similar sentiments were expressed in letters submitted to the board by Sagaponack resident Bruce Kaplan, and Robert Brewer, whose father began renting a cottage from John White Sr. in 1935.
“I believe these camps are of historical interest as they show how the Sagaponack beach transitioned from raw farmland to the built-up, very high-end beach homes that exist today,” Brewer wrote. “The Meighan Camp and the other five White camps, which have been preserved, are nearly the only ones still in existence. They are a piece of Sagaponack history which deserves recognition.”
The AHRB first heard from Petrello’s lawyer, Nica Strunk, and his architect, Lisa Zaloga, at the public hearing June 28. Both Strunk and Zaloga impressed upon the board several aspects of the building’s history that they said should prevent it from being considered worthy of historic preservation. Most notably, Strunk said historic preservationist Alison Cornish had already declared the cottage “noncontributing” and thus ineligible for preservation.
In a resolution adopted last week, the board indicated it was “unable to identify how the subject of the cottage contains any distinctive architectural features of historic value or how this cottage is in any manner distinctive.”
At a meeting on August 19, the AHRB will address a building plan for the property.