Sag Harbor Village Concerned Over Care of Historic Homes

Posted on 27 August 2010

Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board Chairman Cee Scott Brown has watched over the years as historic homes in the village have been altered, without a permit, their owners either oblivious to the responsibility inherent when owning a residence in the historic district of Sag Harbor, or trying avoid the often costly nature of historic preservation by trying to skirt regulation.

And he has had enough.

Faced with yet another example of a historic home altered for the worse, at a Sag Harbor ARB meeting this week, Brown called on the village board of trustees to increase the village fines for constructing work without a permit, and said he would like to see the village take on an educational role with residents and service providers to ensure historic homes are protected in the future.

On Monday, August 23 Brown raised the discussion after being made aware by Sag Harbor Building Inspector Tim Platt that Melanie Fleishman had replaced a wood shingled roof on her historic Atlantic Avenue home with an asphalt roof. Platt told Fleishman she will need a permit for the new roof, and she will likely appear before the board at its September 9 meeting to address the situation, said Brown. However, Brown raised the issue this week with fellow board memebrs as a jumping off point to discuss the board’s inability to enforce and educate the necessity of historic preservation in Sag Harbor.

Fleishman’s contractor has cited other asphalt roofs in her neighborhood as part of the application to make the new roof legal. While Brown acknowledged there are historic homes with asphalt roofs, Fleischman’s home has traditionally had wood shingles, and should have remained that way.

“It’s about educating the homeowners,” said board member Diane Schiavoni. “And I don’t know how we do that.”

“Basically, there has to be more teeth in what we are doing here, because this is a flagrant flaunting of all we stand for,” said Brown. “If it was asphalt replaced by asphalt, no problem, but it’s not.”

“It also makes me think as board members, why are we doing this and with fines of $50 or $100 why get a permit,” he continued.

Brown added the only other recourse the village has is litigation, where often a judge could look at the cost involved with historic preservation of a home and side with the defendant.

“I think we as a board should go to the mayor and let him know we feel there should be more sting in the penalties that will be incurred if someone violates the law,” said Brown. “Number two, sometimes people just don’t know about the law and we have to get the word out.”

Board member Bethany Deyermond suggested using real estate agents as the front lines for information on the responsibility of owning a historic home. As with any residence in the village, any change to the exterior of a building must be approved by the ARB, which in the case of historic homes has the authority to demand the historic character is maintained, whether through ensuring the roofline is not altered, windows remain antique and siding and paint colors replaced in kind.

Brown added service providers could also be included in the discussion, as they are the ones performing the work on these structures; although he added often companies not from Sag Harbor secure those services.

However, said Brown, the Sag Harbor Historic Society has produced a number of pamphlets, available in the village building department, that detail the village code, requirements for historic preservation, and how to ensure renovations are in keeping with the historic character of Sag Harbor. Should fines be increased for breaches of the village code, Brown suggested that money could be funneled into a mass mailing of these pamphlets to homeowners, contractors and real estate agents alike.

“If you buy a historic home, you have a responsibility to keep it historic,” said Schiavoni.

In other news, the board approved a second story addition at Daniel De Simone and Angela Scott’s Spring Street residence.

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3 Responses to “Sag Harbor Village Concerned Over Care of Historic Homes”

  1. bill baily says:

    I think more common sense must prevail here. We are not talking about changing the structure. If a homeowner needs a new roof and they want to put an asphalt roof on their home that should be the homeowner’s decision? We are in a recession right? Has the village got all its business in order? I think not. If the town would like to pay the difference in cost then I am listening but otherwise what should the homeowner do, live with a leaking roof due to lack of funds while the town masters deliberate over what roof meets their expectations? Do all the town masters own homes in the village that are subject to such harsh restrictions? If not maybe that should be a requirement for office. We are focusing on the wrong issues. Let us find a way to work with owners in the future to resurrect some of the falling down structures in our otherwise amazing village.

  2. Tim says:

    Hey, how about that 21 Water Street – looking good, Sag Harbor town boards. A real asset to the community we got going there. And the modernist flat roof addition proposed for the library – that will look real nice in the middle of the Main Street historic district. Blend in with the 19th century architecture and all – yep. And the Bullova factory – anything going on over there, or is it still falling down ?
    Don’t we need some perspective here ? Get some control over the big picture and then maybe show concern for average people who also love old houses ? Someone on a board said you shouldn’t buy a historic home if you can’t afford to maintain it, ( to the standards of the wealthy elite ?) And forget about wood shingle roofs being more of a fire hazard than asphalt. Funny thing is that the practical people who built those homes to begin with, would have used asphalt if it had been available – I guarantee it ! Okay sorry – end of rant.

  3. bill baily says:

    Yup!


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