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Commission, property owners disagree over fate of home in Orient's historic district 

Orient residents want this home on Skippers Lane

Orient residents want this home on Skippers Lane preserved because of its location in the hamlet and what they say is the home's historic nature, but the owners want to demolish it. Credit: Randee Daddona

The owners of a home in the historic district of a hamlet in Southold Town are clashing with residents and local officials who oppose their efforts to tear down the structure.

Orient residents at an Aug. 13 public hearing asked the town board to side with Southold's Historic Preservation Commission’s ruling against tearing down a home on Skippers Lane. The home is a registered landmark property and is listed as a “contributing element” of the Orient Village National Register Historic District, according to the commission’s May 21 ruling denying the homeowners’ request to demolish the 1.5-story, shingled home.

Louis Potters and Louise Brancato, who own the home, applied in June 2018 to raze it. The house is on a 13,817-square-foot property. The buildings on the property include an 1,880-square-foot home and a two-car garage. Potters and Brancato are seeking to build a similar home with the addition of a new wing that would create a two-story, 3,328-square-foot home.

The homeowners are appealing to the town board to overturn the commission’s decision.

Engineers hired by the homeowners said the house has mold, lead and asbestos and that the cleanup costs would be more expensive than demolishing the structure, Martin D. Finnegan, a Riverhead-based attorney representing Potters and Brancato, said at last week's hearing.

Finnegan added that the engineers also determined that if the house had any historic features, “over time, they were either renovated, removed or had disintegrated, and that the house as it stands today has no architectural or craftsman-like feature that one could consider historically significant.”

However, Orient residents said they didn’t want larger buildings in the hamlet’s historic district.

Sherry Thomas said at the hearing that the proposed home would be “significantly larger” than the current residence, and that rejecting the proposed new home is an important step toward “protecting the historic district in the coming years.”

The board is expected to decide on the matter within two weeks, said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, adding that it will be a “difficult decision for the board to make.”

“It’s two sides of the equation," Russell said. "One side says it has no historic quality and it’s not salvageable, and another side says it does have historic quality and it is salvageable. When you have testimony submitted at the commission level from both sides, you have difficulty determining which side made a more compelling case.” 

In a statement issued Aug. 15, Finnegan said his clients “are confident that the overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence presented to the Historic Preservation Commission established the appropriateness of demolition of this house under the applicable town code criteria and, if the town board confines its review to the record, they will undoubtedly reach that inescapable conclusion.”

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