The Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board has reached out to its attorney, Anthony Tohill, to find out what recourse it has in recommending increased fines for both homeowners and contractors who violate village code by building in the historic district without a permit or board approval.
The request comes after the latest example of what board members say is an ongoing issue with residents, and their contractors, making improvements in the village historic district without a permit or ARB approval.
The latest instance involves Melanie Fleishman and her Atlantic Avenue residence, which last year was renovated — its cedar shake roof replaced with an asphalt roof — without a permit or board approval.
On Monday, October 25, Fleishman approached the board, defending herself by saying she was unaware that she needed board approval and that her contractor, listed in building department records as East End Home Maintenance of Bridgehampton, never told her this was required.
The contractor, said Fleishman, said she had a choice between replacing the roof with cedar shake in-kind or moving asphalt, which is a cheaper material.
“I went on the assumption that I had the choice,” said Fleishman, adding that she was unaware there was a problem until she read about the situation in The Sag Harbor Express when it first broached at the ARB in August.
ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown said he was told by Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt that Fleishman received two quotes, with one contractor — the one she did not hire — advising her she would in fact need a permit.
Fleishman said she had three estimates, but did not recall if that was the case, and said ultimately after selecting a professional roofer, trusted they would have informed her if this was an issue.
“Obviously, I should have researched this more clearly,” she said.
According to building department records, the construction happened in December of 2009, and Fleishman was cited for lack of a building permit and ARB certificate of appropriateness in January of 2010. In February, East End Home Maintenance filed an application with the village, which was then held after a check bounced for the application fee, delaying ARB review of the matter until August.
East End Home Maintenance, which is listed as a Bridgehampton-based business in the application, is also known as East End Roofing and Siding. Attempts to contact the provider were unsuccessful as both the listed telephone number and webpage were disconnected.
Brown noted it was not the lack of permit fees that frustrated the board, but its inability to truly follow its mission to protect the historic character of the village when people either disregard, or are unaware of the village code. Obviously, he noted, now that the roof is up, they would not make Fleishman tear it down and replace it with cedar.
“It’s done,” said Brown.
That Fleishman’s house is one of the Atlantic Avenue “twin” houses, and a visible part of Sag Harbor, only makes the matter more frustrating, said Brown, as from here-on-out anyone who purchases the house will be able to replace their roof, in-kind, with asphalt.
Fleishman said if she had known, she would have replaced the roof with cedar, or patched it if the cost proved too expensive.
“I guess that it is paramount for everyone here and out there to understand that if you have a shake roof it is not okay to auto replace it with asphalt,” said Brown, noting it is hard to enforce this part of the code when the fine can be as little as $50 — a fine that does not have the kind of bite he would like to see it have.
If the fine was raised to, for example, $2,500, said board member Michael Mensch, and contractors were held responsible, it might make everyone involved take a little more responsibility.
The board decided to table the application while awaiting word from Tohill on if the fines can be increased and if contractors can be held financially accountable as well.
“If the fine were stinging enough, it would make people think more than once about doing this,” he said.