Dan Rattiner's Stories

Not Tall Enough: Ideas to Pass a Variance Request in Sag Harbor

A person in Sag Harbor has made an application to the Zoning Board there, hoping for a variance so they make the ceiling higher on the second floor in a house. The applicant says the height of the second floor is too low. As we all know, people living years ago were shorter than they are now. It’s the better nutrition. But these ceiling heights were okay then.

The house in question is in the historic district. There are strict rules for what you can and cannot do there. Sag Harbor is one of the four great historic whaling towns in America. The others are Lahaina, Hawaii; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Nantucket. The historic district consists of a series of narrow streets where very small wood-shingled homes were built 200 years ago. Perhaps the most beautiful of these is Garden Street. This applicant lives on Garden Street.

In addition to the applicant wanting higher ceilings, they also want permission to build two more bedrooms onto this house.

To gain a variance, an applicant has to show personal hardship. And it can’t be of your own making. So, if, for example, the ceiling height on the second floor was low when they bought the house, they shouldn’t have bought it.

What could be a hardship that’s not of their own making? I’m sure there are good lawyers to figure this out. If not, here are some suggestions. Just off the top of my head.

When they bought the house, they were short and that was fine. But then, surprisingly, they grew. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Now they are very tall.

When they bought the house, they weren’t in the high heel shoe business. But now they are.

When they bought the house, they were married to someone who was also short. But since then they’ve become divorced. Now there are many people who are tall who stop in here to socialize with the owner. This can’t be right.

If the old whalers who built this house ate properly, they probably would have raised the ceiling height on the second floor before now. But they didn’t. This is an oversight.

Regarding the application for two more bedrooms, we just couldn’t help ourselves. It was an accident. We made more kids and they are growing and growing and getting too big to sleep out in the backyard anymore.

On Tuesday, March 21, this matter was on the docket again. Perhaps we’ll know more about what’s what soon.

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