Monday, November 30, 2009

One Squabble Lane

On November 9th, an exciting modern house design was approved for this beach location, at the southeastern foot of Wickapogue Pond. Not to be confused with Howard Stern’s house nearby (and off of the other Squabble Lane in the village), this house will be a lovely improvement over the dilapidated circa 70’s existing house that presently sits near the dunes. While I will always be curious about the pirate flag that waves over the driveway, I can’t wait to watch the realization of this house to see if it will truly integrate interior with exterior and seemingly become one with the dune. The proposed design conjures up images in my mind of Peter Eisenman (from his Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio) and Zaha Hadid (the Ordrupgaard Museum extension and the BMW Plant Central Building, but more rectilinear), as well as some of the houses of sagaponack ( On paper, the house’s style doesn’t appear to be quite as timeless a design as Michael Haverland’s for Calvin Klein, and I sometimes wonder how houses on the ocean with such expanses of windows and railings avoid the glass becoming frosted by the relentless pelting of sand but I’m probably being infuriatingly practical. The architect presented some lovely three-dimensional renderings but I’m not sure I technically have the permission to show you those, so I rendered the rear elevation myself. The left volume is the garage below with the pool house and gym functions above, while the right side volume is the main house. The angled piece is a ramp leading to a roof terrace. The architect is a New York City firm named 1100 Architects, P.C. (

Friday, November 27, 2009

Did You Know.......

At the public hearing on November 9th, Ham Hoge commented that the board's CLG status (Certified Local Government) was in jeopardy due to the lack of board qualifications? What have I been saying all along? That the board members should have specific professional experience related to their duty, not unlike many other Architectural Review Boards across the country, and a requirement also enforced by state agencies that assist these boards in their efforts. See more about CLG's here: Well, at lease we now have one qualified member in Brian Brady. Let's cross our fingers for more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Public Notices

I have written about notices before, the ones that are required to me mailed to neighbors within a 200 foot radius of a property that is planning new construction or renovation. And so this might be a bit repetitive. But the topic has come up lately relative to some work in the Rosko Drive area and I feel inclined to weigh-in with my thoughts on the subject of notices in general.

Many times when I am attending an ARB meeting I will hear a neighbor say they didn’t receive a notice. In this case, one of two things most likely occurred. First, they could have thrown it away because it looked like junk mail. It absolutely can and often does. Any of you who have received one know this to be true. I have scanned one I received in the past to show you here. The literal requirement is as follows: (116-32 D)”With respect to applications which involve a public hearing, the Board shall cause a public notice of such hearing to be published once in the official newspaper at least 10 days prior to the hearing date, and the applicant shall cause a copy of such notice to be mailed to all property owners within 200 feet of the subject premises, as shown on the latest completed tax roll, measured along the frontage on both sides of the street, and to all other property owners located within 200 feet of the boundaries of the premises, by ordinary mail at least 10 days prior to the hearing date. The applicant shall submit proof of such mailing." So, in essence, you could receive a plain white envelope with your name typed on it and no return address and just throw it away thinking it’s junk. Or, if you’re curiosity gets the better of you, you could open it and find a very generic piece of paper with the legal notice typed in all capital letters and nothing else included explaining what it is that you’ve actually received. Some architects and lawyers (agents for the owners) will mail the notice in an envelope that shows their letterhead and accompany the notice with a cover letter of their own explaining the project, how one can look at the proposed drawings, what to do if one has concerns about the project, etc. But that is very rare. Most people would never bother to actually solicit complaints and hope to just slide quickly through the ARB process without any bother from the board or the neighbors. And many are successful at doing just that.

Second, they could have been outside the 200 foot radius. This is very likely also. Folks, 200 feet is not that far. The intention of the 200 feet is just to notify the immediately adjacent neighbors: that’s four. The rest of you don’t matter, not on the same street or anywhere else in the village – or that’s the way it seems anyway. I believe more residents should be notified. The amount of neighbors that receive notices is directly related to the size of their property. The bigger the property, the fewer the notices. So the wealthier you are, the easier you have it? I believe either a formula should be derived so that the radius is determined by the lot size, and so that a proportionate amount of residents are notified when new work is proposed regardless of zoning district, or the radius rule should be abandoned and replaced by a requirement that every person owning property on the street where the work will occur shall receive a notice, whether the street is the length of Henry Street or Halsey Neck Lane.

What about those persons within the 200 foot radius that still didn’t receive a notice? Sorry. I’ve asked that question and was told it’s impossible to prove, even if true. Leaving the neighbor powerless and without any recourse. As far as the Village is concerned, they are doing their job. They receive affidavits of mailing and posting (the sign on the property advertising the hearing) and that’s all that’s required of them.

People love mail! Even more so now because, thanks to email, real mail is usually bills. To receive a card or letter is joyous! I believe there should be a lot more detail in the endeavor of sending notices. They should be sent certified, in an envelope with the subject property owner’s name and return address, should include small copies of the proposed site plan and elevations of the project, and most importantly should include instructions on how to see proposed drawings and what to do if they have concerns. These few changes would invite more public participation into the whole ARB process and help to ensure that new work appears compatible within our historic village. And it would be neighborly too!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Updated: My Opinion: 75 South Main Street

After all of the great discussion during the public review of this application Monday night, it occurred to me that I hadn’t conveyed my opinion about the particular issue of color. I believe that an integral part of this house’s architectural character is the fact that it is painted. However, the discussions Monday night only mentioned the new owner’s desire for stained grey siding, versus maintaining the current color scheme. I believe there is an appropriate compromise that would respect the architectural integrity of the house, the Village’s ONLY surviving example of the Stick Style, while satisfying the new owner’s desire for a lighter color. That is to leave the original siding material (which is in great condition) in-tact and strip and re-paint the house (and discovering and documenting the original paint colors in the process) with a more neutral scheme, a scheme that includes beiges and taupes and greys and yes, white. There have to be at least four colors on the house, and that needs to stay the case in order to let all of the extraordinary detail shine. Would I rather the house stay the current colors? Yes because I believe them to be most closely aligned with whatever the original colors were. But there’s a house on the northwest corner of Moses Lane and Hill Street that has a lot of Victorian detailing that was once painted maroon and dark green and is now white and beige, and it looks great, and its detailing still shines! (The photo is taken in the morning when the house is awash with wonderful sunlight. It's hard to see, but the siding is a light beige, the trim is white, and the shutters are a dark green.) There’s a BIG aesthetic difference between a painted house, and a stained house. Here, I’ll be crossing my fingers for paint.