The East Hampton Star, April 19, 2007

A Win-Win in Montauk

By Ellen Keohane

Bruce Bernacchia received a natural resources permit and a variance on April 10 from East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals to build a 3,416-square-foot, two-story house on a lot on Old West Lake Drive in Montauk after demolishing a smaller, one-story one with an attached garage.

The property is comprised of 49 percent wetlands and is in a neighborhood that was developed prior to zoning. In granting Mr. Bernacchia the approvals he sought, the board noted that the new house would be 100.1 feet from wetlands, while the old construction was 82 and 97 feet from them.

At a hearing on Feb. 27, John DeTemple, a neighbor, told the board that the house would block the view of Lake Montauk that his family enjoys. The Bernacchia property borders Lake Montauk and Mr. DeTemple's is directly across the street. In its written decision, the board stated it did not have the power to consider views, and noted the proposed house meets the height and pyramid requirements of the town code. In addition to being farther from wetlands, Mr.Bernacchia proposes using public water.

Mr. Bernacchia also received a variance for a septic system, which will be installed 167 feet from wetlands where 200 feet is required. The existing cesspool, which is most likely sitting in groundwater, will be abandoned, said Laurie Wiltshire of Land Planning Services, a private planner representing Mr.Bernacchia at the hearing in February. Because the lot had been excessively cleared by a previous owner, Mr.Bernacchia has agreed to revegetate portions of it, Ms. Wiltshire said.

At the hearing, Brian Frank, a chief environmental analyst for the town, said the Planning Department had no objection to the application. He commended the installation of a new septic system, the revegetation, and Mr. Bernacchia's willingness to give the town a scenic easement on part of the property.

When the neighborhood was developed, most of the septic systems were placed close to the water to meet setback requirements for wells, Mr. Frank said. Now that public water has become available, Mr. Frank hopes more owners will choose to upgrade their septic systems.

The southern end of Lake Montauk is the farthest from the Montauk Harbor inlet and therefore has the least amount of tidal exchange. As a result, this part of the harbor, or lake, has a higher level of pollutants than other areas, he said. The new construction will not cause an undesirable change, and "may even improve" surrounding environmental conditions due to the extensive revegetation proposed, the board wrote in its decision.



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