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Petrello Gets OK, Village Faces Lawsuit

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By Claire Walla

After a controversial demolition hearing and a submission of an unpopular initial building plan, members of the Sagaponack Village Architectural and Historic Review Board (AHRB) finally approved the blueprint for a two-story home submitted by Anthony and Cynthia Petrello. The board made its decision at a regularly scheduled AHRB meeting last Friday, October 21.

And while an OK from the AHRB is typically a relative green light for construction, this case faces another obstacle that may prevent this structure from being built as currently proposed.

As Village Clerk Rhodi Winchell explained it, Petrello’s building application was caught up in a change in regulation. Adopted by the board last spring, the village’s new Coastal Erosion Hazard (CEH) code requires structures on oceanfront properties to be built 125 feet landward of the crest of the properties oceanfront dune. This is about 30 feet back from where Petrello’s proposed his new house to sit.

Petrello has sued the village of Sagaponack over the issue, arguing that because his building plan was approved by the DEC in December of 2010 — before the CEH was adopted — his building plan should not have to conform to the new law.

However, Winchell explained, “they were not vested.”

Had some aspect of the proposed building actually been in the ground, she said Petrello would indeed have been exempted from CEH regulations.

At this point, she added, if Petrello’s suit is successful, then this current building plan — having already been approved by the AHRB — would be able to move forward as is.

Petrello’s architect, John Sprague, explained to the board on Friday that he and chief architect Lisa Zaloga tweaked the building’s exterior to address some of the concerns AHRB board members had shared at a previous meeting. He said the footprint has not changed, but designers took away the breakaway walls the AHRB took issue with, which exposes the actual pilings and the railings of the structure.

However, should Petrello lose the suit, his architects would have to go back to the drawing board. The CEH barrier would push the building back up into a triangular-shaped property, meaning the building’s footprint would have to shrink in order to fit.