The house at 61 North Main Str in the Village...

The house at 61 North Main Str in the Village of East Hampton may be included on a list of historic timber frame homes, and affected by new zoning laws designed to protect those structures. (Dec. 21, 2012) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

East Hampton village officials have passed a new law designed to preserve historic timber frame homes by giving homeowners who agree to preserve those buildings a bonus to any other house they build on the same property.

Officials hope the new policy, which was approved unanimously on Friday, preserves about two dozen timber frame buildings dating from between 1700 and 1850 that are scattered on residential lots across the village.

Because the village's modern zoning code strictly limits the size of residential homes based on lot size, officials feared that owners -- or future owners -- would simply knock down the historic buildings so they could build a large modern house.

The village board vote allows homeowners who preserve those timber frame homes -- which Mayor Paul Rickenbach Jr. described as "Polaroid snapshots of our history" -- to add 35 percent of the gross floor area of those houses to the size of a new home.

While parts of East Hampton have large estates of five or 10 acres or more, other residential areas in the 365-year-old village are on much smaller lots carved out in Colonial or pre-Colonial times.

Village code limits the gross floor area of a new home to no more than 10 percent of its lot, plus 1,000 square feet. The village does not permit residential structures of more than 20,000 square feet, no matter how large the lot.

The second home cannot be attached to the frame building.

At the same meeting, the village board cleared up a decades-old portion of its zoning code and eliminated a section that permitted construction of a second home on a single lot under "extraordinary circumstances."

That exemption dates to when wealthy families built a second home for their summer staff. The board noted in its resolution that "in the decades since this provision [was adopted] . . . a considerable amount of overall development and redevelopment has occurred, producing more crowding of buildings and traffic congestion . . ."

Village attorney Linda Riley said the change, which was also passed 5-0 by the board, will not interfere with the special bonus for owners of timber frame homes, since a specific exception was written for them in the village code.

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