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Southampton Village historic district fights mansion plan

The owner of 24-28 Gin Lane has repeatedly

The owner of 24-28 Gin Lane has repeatedly been sent back to the drawing board over concerns raised by neighbors and the village's Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review. May 29, 2017. (Credit: Newsday / Rachelle Blidner)

Too big. Too out of character for the historic neighborhood. Just too much.

Southampton Village residents and the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review have raised those concerns over plans to build a 16,195-square-foot mansion in the community’s historic district.

Although the proposed size of the Georgian Revival-style home at 24-28 Gin Lane has been reduced from 17,275 square feet, neighbors and board members continue to raise concerns about the “municipal building” look of the design by Manhattan-based architect Timothy Haynes.

Ellen Scarborough, who would have a view of the mansion from her home across Lake Agawam, said she is most concerned the new structure “would be a blight in the heart of the historic district.”

“It offends me that someone wants to put something like that in what should remain a charming village, and not some repository for every person who needs to build their mansion,” said Scarborough, who is married to WNBC/4 New York anchor Chuck Scarborough.

John Bennett, an attorney representing the Gin Lane property owner, said he was frustrated with the process — the proposed waterfront home has already been the subject of four review hearings.

Financier Scott Shleifer purchased the 6.52-acre property in December 2015, combining two adjacent parcels that cost $40 million and $13 million, respectively. Shleifer, who is the managing director of the investment firm Tiger Global Management, purchased the lots through his companies named SH 24 LLC and SH 28 LLC, his attorneys said. Bennett declined to provide the costs of building the house.

Shleifer, who lives on Park Avenue in Manhattan, needs the review board’s approval before he can build the home and an adjacent 3,700-square-foot guesthouse. The houses would replace two buildings that have already been approved for demolition by the architectural review board.

Curtis Highsmith, chairman of the architectural review board, said that while the board legally cannot rule on a house’s size, there is a higher standard for the architecture of homes in the historic district. Home exteriors must fit in with the area, which is made up of shingled, Victorian-style houses.

The reduction in size and other changes “toned it down,” Highsmith said. “I don’t think it’s totally addressed the concerns or issues. . . . I believe you can do better in terms of style.”

Shleifer’s application has a “little different review than normal” because it is brand-new construction, not an alteration to a potentially historical structure, Highsmith said. “We’re typically very stringent on alterations to pre-existing structures, but when there’s new construction, there is room for interpretation, room for growth and room for new styles. . . . You can have interpretations” of that historical style.

The historic district was settled in the 1600s in what was then farmland and became a New England-style summer colony for the wealthy in the 1870s and 1880s, said Tom Edmonds, executive director of the Southampton Historical Museum.

“It’s important for anyone that buys property here to continue the Southampton-New England-style tradition,” Edmonds said. “Otherwise, we can look like Atlantic City.”

Bennett said the proposed size of the main house — 183 feet long and 52 feet high — is “consistent” with the “grand estates” of the area, noting the home is 700 feet from a public road and that neighbors contesting the designs have homes that are up to 63 feet high.

“This is a $53 million investment, and it’s vulgar to tell him he has to come back time and time again to go before this board,” Bennett said of Shleifer, who was not present at a review board meeting last Monday.

Jeff Bragman, an attorney representing two neighboring families, the Mangers and the Michaelchecks, said Shleifer’s house, as designed, would “loom over” their “classic shingle-style” houses and block their views. The Manger family’s house is about 7,800 square feet, and the Michaelcheck home is about 8,500 square feet.

“You’re not only building your own house,” Bragman said. “You’re becoming part of a really important and preserved neighborhood.”

Bennett said his client is open to further modifications on the home, but wants more specific input from the board, which plans to host a special meeting about the property at a later date.

“This is what happens,” Bennett said. “It’s typical out here in the East End. ‘I’ve got mine; you can’t have anything.’ ”

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