Ira Rennert worries neighbors with Pilates studio plan for Sagaponack home
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Billionaire Ira Rennert, whose 64,389-square-foot Hamptons home is bigger than the White House, says he needs more room -- for a Pilates studio.
Not everyone is happy.
"Enough already," said Linda Bird Francke, an author and year-round resident since 1978 whose house faces the Rennert compound. "He has so many buildings the way it is, there must be a place to tuck in a Pilates studio."
The junk-bond investor, whose Sagaponack home is regularly listed among the largest in the United States, wants to add the studio, a spa bath, sauna and steam shower, plus an extra three bathrooms, to one of the two pool houses on his 63-acre oceanfront estate.
The compound also includes 30,519 square feet of outbuildings, according to documents filed with the Village of Sagaponack.
But the attorney for Rennert, whose net worth is listed by Forbes as $6.5 billion, said the expansion is minimal.
"It would be totally invisible from anybody unless you flew over it," said Gilbert G. Flanagan, of Southampton.
An application filed last month seeking a zoning variance stresses the need for additional bathrooms near the pool facility, which includes a main rectangular pool, a circular wading pool, a waterfall pool and a pool terrace.
The single bathroom at the pool "greatly under-serves a family social gathering," the application states. The closest bathroom in the main house "is over a 200-foot, several-minute, indirect walking distance away."
The 633-square-foot addition to the existing 386-square-foot pool house "would complete the offerings of a modern, fully equipped family swimming facility," the application says.
Flanagan, in an interview, said, "Quite frankly, to walk several hundred feet to go to the bathroom is inappropriate."
Sagaponack once was known for its potato farms. Rennert's mansion, built in the 1990s and opposed by a number of neighbors, spurred a restriction in East Hampton and Southampton towns that limited homes to 20,000 square feet. The unsuccessful effort to stop the house also led to the creation of Sagaponack Village, which incorporated in 2005 and now restricts houses to 12,000 square feet.
A village zoning board of appeals hearing last month included what chairman Elliott Meisel called a "lively discussion." Rennert's attorneys were asked to come back with alternatives to the application.
Flanagan said the opposition "sounds like they're more concerned with the principle than the exact land use and zoning issues."
In the Village of Southampton, pool houses of as much as 800 square feet are granted "as a matter of right," Flanagan said.
He said the next hearing, scheduled for August, might be pushed back to September.
Bird Francke said even though the compound blocks her view of the ocean, Rennert has been "a model neighbor."
"Whoever lives in that house, lives very quietly," she said.