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May 16, 2018 6:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Ronald Lauder Asks To Rebuild Wainscott House Destroyed During Superstorm Sandy

Ron Lauder is asking to rebuild a small oceanfront house that was destroyed during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.    MICHAEL WRIGHT
May 22, 2018 1:35 PM

Billionaire businessman Ronald Lauder has asked East Hampton Town for permission to rebuild an oceanfront house that was almost completely destroyed in 2012, during Superstorm Sandy—with its remnants scattered in nearby Wainscott Pond.

Representatives of Mr. Lauder have filed an application to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals asking for several variances from environmental codes to allow a new house to be built on the narrow strip of dune and marsh that runs between the pond and the Atlantic just to the west of Beach Lane in Wainscott.

The proposed new house would be one story, though Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations require that it be elevated on pilings. It would total about 1,490 square feet and would also have about 970 square feet of decking surrounding it.

The new house is proposed to be built farther east on the property than the original house, to move it out of the precarious narrowest reach between the pond and the ocean dunes.

It would also be landward of where the old house stood—a point marked by the lone remnant of the original structure, its former rear staircase, which now stands in the middle of a row of tall, manmade dunes that were rebuilt following Sandy.

Attorney Richard Hammer told the members of the zoning board on Tuesday, May 15, that the new location had been chosen to try to minimize the nonconformity with environmental codes as much as possible, as well as move the new house into a safer location.

“It’s frankly not possible to achieve a conforming building site on this property,” Mr. Hammer said. “It’s a unique balancing test between all the different competing goals of the town code.”

The proposed new location would put the house 80 feet landward of the crest of the dunes, whereas the required minimum is 100 feet. But moving it away from the dunes would move it closer to wetlands on the pond side of the property. The application also asks for several variances from required wetland setbacks of between 40 and 60 feet.

The one-story, flat-roof design was intended to minimize the visual impacts of the new house when viewed across Wainscott Pond from Wainscott Main Street—a view that Mr. Hammer acknowledged is “an integral part of the character of Wainscott Main Street.”

The former house had been about 2,700 square feet, Mr. Hammer estimated, and had been the focus of a much-watched battle to protect it from destruction by storm-driven waves over several years. Contractors for Mr. Lauder had tried a number of efforts to protect the house as the dunes and eventually even the ocean beach between it and the sea eroded away.

The final effort had been the use of giant sandbags called geocubes around the base of the house, which had protected it in a series of bad storms, including Hurricane Irene a year prior to Sandy.

But Sandy’s storm surge and towering waves obliterated the structure, reducing it to little more than loose boards and pieces of siding and roof that were carried into Wainscott Pond by the storm’s waves. After the storm everything from lawn chairs and beach towels to bits of insulation and roofing shingles spread around the entire shoreline of the pond—much of which is owned by Mr. Lauder.

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The previous house was destroyed because of it's location. It is on a thin strip between the Ocean and wetlands. Shouldn't this be a good indication that there should not be a house there? Don't we have these environmental laws for a reason? I don't care how much $$ you have, or who your lawyer is, lets leave what little natural beauty we have left
By PatrickKing (15), Sah Harbor on May 17, 18 12:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
You know you have too much money when you want to build another house after nature destroyed the first one. The storms are increasing in strength and number, not decreasing.
By Greg129 (5), East Quogue on May 17, 18 12:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
" It's frankly not possible to achieve a conforming building site on this property". That says it all! NO!! Now go away.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 17, 18 1:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Feds but the land and keep it natural, indians never built on the ocean, guess why???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 22, 18 3:57 PM