By Kathryn G. Menu
The owners of In Home on Main Street are reconsidering an appeal they made to the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) to allow them to replace three second-story windows with aluminum clad wood windows similar to those recently erected in the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.
Owner John Scocco said he would talk to his partner, David Brogna, about the application after a prolonged conversation with the ARB last week. During that discussion it was revealed the board does not believe it formally signed off on the aluminum clad windows at the former watchcase factory, and similar windows approved at 125 Main Street were an oversight by the board.
Last Thursday, Scocco came back before the board for a second time to discuss the appeal, which looks to overturn a previous decision denying the use of aluminum clad wood windows in a second story window replacement project.
Scocco argued the very same windows have been used in the luxury condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory — a historic building in the historic district. The same windows have also been used at 125 Main Street, a renovated historic building, although last month the ARB met with building owner Jim Giorgio in an effort to get him to replace those windows with wood windows. That discussion was left open ended after Giorgio requested he be allowed to replace four second story windows with two picture windows, a concept not viewed favorably by the ARB.
“Dave and I care a lot about Sag Harbor,” said Scocco. “We care about the historic integrity of the village.”
Scocco said it was only when they realized aluminum clad windows were approved for not one, but two historic district projects, that he and Brogna decided to revisit the issue in light of the cost of maintenance and eventual replacement of wood windows.
“Truly, four years ago there were a lot of details that were left very open ended and vague and that were going to be addressed moving forward,” said Brown of the ARB’s Bulova approval. “I have no recollection of us saying this is the window.”
Tom Horn, Sr., the only other member of the board sitting during the Bulova review, agreed, noting he would bet nothing could be found in the minutes showing the ARB signed off on those windows, or any synthetic materials for siding. Synthetic roof material was discussed by the ARB for the townhouses in that development project.
“125 Main was a complete and total lapse,” added Brown, noting it could have been as simple as the ARB not dictating that the windows in that building would need to be replaced in kind in its approval.
“I think we have an issue here,” said Brown. “We have approved a major project with 1,000 windows and another project … what grounds do we have to say no to three, second story windows.”
“We can appeal to you and say we don’t want you to do that and set any more precedents, but I don’t feel we can say, ‘No, you can’t do that’,” added Brown.
Village attorney Denise Schoen disagreed.
“If the approvals for the Bulova Watchcase and 125 Main were truly oversights or you lacked sufficient details to understand what you are approving, it doesn’t set a negative precedent you have to follow for the next 100 years,” said Schoen. “When we talk about precedent, we talk about when an applicant comes in, you examine what they are presenting and say, ‘that is appropriate for Main Street. That is appropriate for the historic district.’”
“I understand what the applicant is saying and I feel for both of you, but I just want to make the distinction it is not a legal precedent that has been set,” she continued.
If challenged, a court could state it did not believe the ARB did not intend to allow synthetic windows. Schoen said she would comb through the Bulova file.
“So I understand where you are coming from and I felt bad denying you because this is something that slipped through the cracks,” said board member Penni Ludwig.
If it were not for these two oversights, added Ludwig, Scocco and Brogna would have replaced their windows with wood.
“You can make a stink and fight it and I understand your feeling,” said Ludwig, “but I am trying to look at it that this is a mistake and it will snowball and we won’t have a leg to stand on.”
Board member Christine Patrick wondered if the ARB approved Scocco and Brogna’s appeal would they then be setting a precedent for the historic district as they would knowingly be agreeing to allow aluminum clad windows in downtown Sag Harbor.
Schoen said yes.
“I am worried about that,” said Patrick.
Scocco said he respected the ARB and wanted to talk to Brogna about the application. He added some historic districts do allow these kinds of windows.
“That is where I am stuck because I don’t necessarily believe it compromises the integrity but I understand it is not what you want,” he said.
Brown noted the ARB has been open to some synthetics in the historic district. The ARB was the first in the nation to approve the use of photovoltaic shingles in a now moot application for the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church building on Madison Street.
“This board is trying to be open and go with the flow,” said Brown. “Windows are the soul of the house.”
Schoen added that because the village code asks the board not to allow synthetic materials, any decision that does so could theoretically be challenged as it would be a decision that goes against village law.
“I respect everyone here,” said Scocco, asking the board to table the application while he talks to his partner.
In other ARB news, the board sent a letter to the village boards including the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees asking for a zoning code amendment to change the front yard setback in Sag Harbor to 20 feet, down from 30 feet.
The idea, said Brown, is 20 feet is a setback that is in keeping with homes in the village.
The next Sag Harbor ARB meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, November 25.