By Stephen J. Kotz
It was all Redwood all the time on Monday as the Sag Harbor Harbor Committee heard five applications for wetland permits in the neighborhood.
Despite objections from two neighbors, the committee said it would likely approve a permit for Palo Aalto L.L.C., which owns a house at 232 Redwood Road to build a 425-square-foot pool, decking and the installation of a 90-foot-long retaining wall along the western side of the pool and the property line.
William Frazier, who lives at 226 Redwood Road next door, said the retaining wall, which as proposed would only be 18 inches from the property line, could pose a threat to his own property if it were ever breached in a storm.
“What happens when it crumbles?” he asked. “Gentlemen, this is an ill-conceived plan. Don’t approve it.”
Another neighbor, Cam Gleason, showed the board photographs of flooding in the neighborhood following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“Sandy changed everything,” she said. “It was a wake-up call, so let’s not be in a coma.”
She said if the committee denied the request for the pool, the retaining wall would no longer be an issue. She said she was less concerned that the pool would be destroyed by a storm than the fact that it would replace permeable soil in a low-lying, flood-prone area.
But committee member Stephen Clarke said the board’s hands were tied because the pool and retaining wall both met the required wetland setback.
Chairman Bruce Tait agreed that the committee would probably not have legal grounds to deny the application, but added, “I think it’s time to be stricter and stricter and look at these things with a sharper lens” of applications near the waterfront.
“Sandy was just a storm here,” he said. “When we see the Hurricane 1938 come through again, we’re going to see a lot more damage than that.”
Joshua Schwartz, the owner of a house at 188 Redwood Road, appeared before the committee seeking a 3-foot-tall, 76-foot-long retaining wall to be placed behind a recently replaced bulkhead. Although the application appeared straight-forward on its face, board members said that after receiving approval for the bulkhead, Mr. Schwartz had brought fill in that was not included in his previous application.
Mr. Schwartz tried to explain the discrepancy, telling the board only about 9 yards of fill had been added to his property, as part of landscaping work, but he was unable to provide proof of that.
Committee members were skeptical. “I don’t buy it,” said Mr. Clarke. “I’m looking you in the eye and I’m telling you I don’t buy it for a minute.”
“The big key,” added Mr. Tait, “is you did something in a wetland zone for which you don’t have a permit. Before we deal with this new permit, we have to deal with the fact that we have a violation for the previous permit.”
The board tabled the matter until September, pending Mr. Schwartz being able to provide it with an accounting for how much fill was brought in.
“You wouldn’t need the retaining wall if you didn’t bring in the fill,” said Mr. Clarke. “Anybody can say ‘I’m a man of my word.’ What’s worse? Doing something without a permit or violating the permit?”
In yet another hearing on Redwood Road, the committee said it would approve a wetlands permit allowing Howard and Sydney Druckman, who own a house at 192 Redwood Road, to tear down the existing 800-square-foot house there and replace it with a two-story house with a footprint of 1,511 square feet, a 468-square-foot deck, and a 220-square-foot pool, all requiring reductions in the required 75-foot wetlands setback. As part of the project, a new septic system will be installed along with 420 cubic yards of soil, to keep the system above groundwater.
At a previous meeting, the board had asked Dennis Downes, the Druckmans’ attorney, to prove the lot was too small for reasonable development without reducing the setbacks. Mr. Downes presented a survey showing that 51 percent of the property was wetlands, and meeting a 75-foot wetlands setback and 30-foot front yard setback would limit work to 16 percent of the property,
“You’ve done a good job illustrating that phrase that its so small that it can’t be built on,” said Mr. Tait.
One neighbor, Victoria Van Dyke, said she had not received notice for the hearing because it had been sent to her former address in the city, but the committee said the posting of a public notice on the property was sufficient notice. Although Ms. Van Dyke said she was concerned about the lack of a retaining wall between her property and the Druckmans, but Rich Warren, the board’s environmental consultant, said one was not warranted, given the modest grade. When she was told the garage would not be elevated to meet FEMA standards, as the house would, she expressed relief. “That was my only concern,” she said.