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.