Three groups of residents have filed separate lawsuits against Southampton Village land use boards, seeking to block a trio of controversial building proposals.
One neighbor group opposes a nearly 15,000-square-foot home proposed in the village historic district. Another group of neighbors wants to block the expansion of an 1882 house on Lake Agawam also in that district. A third wants to nullify 17 variances granted to a zoning board member.
The groups are seeking to reverse decisions of the zoning board of appeals and the board of architectural review and historic preservation that allow the proposals to move forward. No damages are being sought.
“I do not feel the boards of Southampton Village have stood strong to protect the village,” said attorney Jeff Bragman, who is representing the neighbors in the dispute involving the proposed new mansion on Gin Lane.
John Bennett, an attorney representing the owners of the two historic district projects at Gin Lane and First Neck Lane called the lawsuits “amazingly frivolous.” He said the decisions made by the village boards about his clients’ properties conform to what is permitted by zoning code.
“They keep on trying to push this boulder up the mountain and it keeps falling down on them,” Bennett said of opponents of the Gin Lane property.
Village Attorney Wayne Bruyn did not respond to a request for comment.
The first lawsuit was filed Nov. 22 against the architectural review board for its Oct. 23 decision allowing construction of a 14,500-square-foot waterfront mansion at 24-28 Gin Lane in the historic district. The property is owned by investor Scott Shleifer. The suit was filed by Lynn Manger and Pamela Michaelcheck, who both live next door to Shleifer’s property.
Bragman, who was recently elected to the East Hampton Town Council, said the architectural board incorrectly prohibited the public from discussing the house’s planned size at hearings.
Lawsuits against the zoning board of appeals regarding decisions about the Lake Agawam property and the zoning board member’s property were both filed on Nov. 29.
Attorney Patrick Fife said neighbors of the Lake Agawam property, at 472 First Neck Lane, are concerned about a variance granted on Oct. 26 that allows for construction on a parcel of wetlands. The property is owned by investor Ken Fox.
“We believe it establishes a harmful precedent for significant development along Lake Agawam, which is the village’s historic and cultural centerpiece and is one of the most distressed water bodies in the state,” said Fife, who represents neighbors Rosewood Realty LLC, Whitney Stevens and couple Joyce and Robert Giuffra Jr.
Linda Margolin, an attorney representing neighbors of zoning board member James Zuhusky, said the variances granted at 550 and 554 Hill St. “exploits every loophole that might exist in the zoning code.” Her clients include Robert Marston, Nicholas Acquavella and Eric and Perri Peltz Ruttenberg.
Zuhusky, who recused himself from hearings on his application, is seeking to subdivide his two parcels, which currently contain a storage warehouse and two houses, into three lots with three houses. His attorney, Gil Flanagan, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Gin Lane and Hill Street properties are undergoing planning board review. The First Neck property is being reviewed by the architectural board.
Hearings on the lawsuits will be held at the state courthouse in Riverhead on Jan. 5 and 12.