Monday, March 5, 2007

Homeowner of historic house wants to add on

By KELLY CAMPBELL

The Huntington Board of Zoning Appeals has given the owner of the historic Booker T. Washington house in Fort Salonga approval for variances that would allow him to add a two-story extension and connect the house to the free-standing garage via a breezeway.
Jerry Gucciardo and his wife Angela of Northport purchased the historic house from the Loretta Smithin estate in 2005 for $1.13 million, according to Town records.
The celebrated African-American educator who rose from slavery to found Tuskegee Institute lived in the small, weathered cottage perched high atop a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound at 30 Cousins Lane in Fort Salonga for the summers of 1911 through 1915.
Due much to the efforts of East Northport’s Thelma Jackson-Abidally, author of African Americans in Northport: An Untold Story and member of Huntington's newly created African American Historic Designation Council, the house was given historical designation in 2003 and was added to the Town’s historic register in 2005.
“What I’m trying to do now is trying to stop a developer from leveling the house now,” Mrs. Jackson Abidally said at that time.
She got her wish when Mr. Gucciardo bought the property. Although he is a developer, he does not plan to level the property, according to his attorney Woodbury-based Thomas Abbate. Rather he plans to update and sell it.
“This is a great application,” Mr. Abbate said in an interview Monday. “It’s in a severe state of disrepair. Mr. Gucciardo bought the property because he wants to renovate it. But it’s severely undersized for today’s way of life. It had no modern amenities that today’s family is looking for. Mr. Gucciardo bought this knowng it is a historical site and he went through painstaking design process and did so in conjunction with the Huntington Historical Preservation Board, from whom he ultimately received approval. The Town Board has also approved Mr. Gucciardo’s design plans, which include a 1,968-foot two-story addition to the south side of the house, a 1,200-square-foot second-story addition over an existing 846-square-foot garage and a breezeway connection the main house to the outbuildings. The addition over the garage cannot have heat, plumbing, fixed stairs or habitable space.
The variances, approved unanimously by the Town’s BZA, are for the second-story garage—according to the Town code, private garages can only be one story— and for side setbacks. The required setbacks are 25 feet and the existing setbacks of the garage are two feet and 73 feet from the nearest properties.
At least one resident was more concerned about the erosion of the bluff that the property sits on than the variances. Another homeowner on Cousins Lane, Paul Zacher, said that in the last year alone the bluff has dropped between four and 10 feet, depending on what point is measured.
"This is a wonderful project," Mr. Zacher said. "But our concern is that you may do all this work and the house may collapse.”
Mr. Abbate said that the house is not in danger of collapsing the bluff.
“We don’t think it’s falling off the cliff,” he said. “We agreed that we would do whatever we can to make sure that the site doesn’t erode to any great extent. This is [Mr. Gucciardo’s] house so he has an economic interest in preserving this house
That interest obviously eclipses everyone eles’s and it makes him the one person who has the greatest interest in protecting that property against substantial erosion.”
BZA Chair Christopher Modelewski said that his Board was only concerned with the variances.
“We have no jurisdiction with respect to engineering or runoff problems,” he said. “There are other governmental agencies which have direct jurisdiction over those matters and a thorough review will be required at those other levels of government. There may be possibly be an Army Corps of Engineers’ application. There is the coastal erosion requirement here in the Town. There’s a whole host of laws and regulations that apply to the redevelopment of the property. We’re only part of the whole municipality process.”
Mr. Gucciardo’s next step is to obtain a building permit and site plan approval through the Town’s Building Department.

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