Saltaire Yacht Club neighbors appeal zoning change

Neighbors are concerned that if the owners of Neighbors are concerned that if the owners of the Saltaire Yacht Club on Fire Island are allowed to add a second story, it would build apartments for summer employees, which some say would worsen the noise problem. (May 7, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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Neighbors of the Saltaire Yacht Club are appealing in State Supreme Court the village zoning board's decision to let the club build a second story -- accusing the village of trying to rezone the site to allow housing.

The club, on Bay Promenade in the Fire Island village, is a grandfathered use in the residential district. The typical seasonal yacht club with tennis and sailing has a bar that has become more popular and raucous over the years, said Nicholas DiCostanzo, a lawyer and longtime Saltaire homeowner whose summer house is feet away.

The issue DiCostanzo and his neighbors have is housing and building height. Their concern is that if the club were allowed to add a second story, it would build apartments for summer employees, which DiCostanzo said would worsen the noise problem.

When word got out the club was hoping to build housing for its summer employees there, the issue began to dominate village board meetings. DiCostanzo, a club member, said last week roughly half of the village, including several board members, belongs to the club.The complaint alleges the club's applications to the village zoning board of appeals, in 2010 and 2011, to build another story were unanimously denied. In its applications, the yacht club said it wanted the second-floor addition for storage.

According to the complaint, the club applied again in 2012 to build the second story as storage. This time, the zoning board had new members, and on Oct. 3 the application was approved -- with the caveat that the club may not "construct, reconstruct, modify or reconfigure any portion of the premises to create 'habitable space' . . . or otherwise use any portion of the premises for living or sleeping by anyone at any time."

DiCostanzo is appealing the zoning board's latest decision because the board "had twice denied the same application and . . . has failed to adhere to the zoning board's own precedent and failed to explain why a different conclusion has been reached," according to the complaint.

After the appeal was filed in November, the village board began publicly addressing the possibility of rezoning the club and creating private club zoning in Saltaire that would allow housing.

Neighbor Stephen Hennessey wrote to the village board on April 3, objecting to the "illegal proposal to modify the zoning code in a manner to benefit [the] Saltaire Yacht Club" and accusing the village of "spot zoning."

But Frank Wolf, who was on the zoning board until last May, when he was elected a village board trustee, said the new zoning would also consider the village store, which has long had housing above it. "The current discussion is to create two new kinds of zone -- a zone for private clubs and a commercial business zone," Wolf said. "The new zoning code under discussion includes the possibility that a resident manager and his or her family may live on the premises, and it also includes the same, with respect to the store."

The board will again consider zoning modifications at its May 27 meeting. But Wolf said there is no final wording on the proposed changes, so a date for a public hearing has not been set.

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