Four ramshackle cottages with a million-dollar view of Fort Pond Bay in Montauk are soon going to be replaced with four luxury resort cottages, each with a hot tub on a roof deck, if the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals grants a single variance.
The slightly more than one acre property at 80 Firestone Road is owned by Marc Rowan, who knows a thing or two about million-dollar views. One of the cofounders of Apollo Global Management, with over $300 billion in assets, Rowan himself is said to have a net worth of about $4 billion.
“The first time I pulled up there I said, ‘Wow.’ It is an unbelievable view,” Rowan said last week about the property he purchased for $2.2 million in 2015.
The view-shed on the property is fueled by location, of course, but also by the land’s topography. Starting at Firestone Road, the cleared land slopes gently down towards the bluff, and Fort Pond Bay.
Currently there are four 392-square-foot rundown cottages that were built in 1967, called Bonzo’s Bungalows. Sewage runs into aging cesspools. The property is zoned for resort-use.
Rowan, with his various holdings across the East End, particularly in Montauk, is something of a 21st century Carl Fisher. When he first stepped onto the property at 80 Firestone Road, he looked past the dilapidated cottages towards the sea beyond.
He brought in Viola Rouhani of Steele Lomont Rouhani Architects. “She is just a talent. I said, ‘Viola, have fun with it.’ ”
Rouhani’s initial design was to replace the four shacks with three buildings, one of which was two stories tall. That project got bogged down when the Town of East Hampton’s building department ruled that a crest of land on the property running perpendicular to the bluff was itself a bluff crest. That ruling would hamper what could be done on the property. Rowan sued the town and won.
But, in the meantime, neighbors complained to Rowan that the two-story building in Rouhani’s initial plan was blocking their view of the bay.
Rouhani went back to the drawing board and came up with a new plan. She designed four 600-square-foot one-story cottages, each strategically placed, so they all would have an unobstructed view of the sea.
Where the property slopes towards the bluff, Chris LaGuardia of LaGuardia Design Group, a landscaping firm, designed a meadow consisting of native plants.
“There isn’t anything like it [in Montauk]. There are not a lot of great reasonably high-end (resort) rentals in Montauk. There are a lot of motels. You do have Gurney’s but that is a mass structure. For someone who wants privacy, who wants to come for two weeks or a month at a time, I think this will be perfect,” Rowan said.
But, there is one issue with the design: the town code requires all resort units to be in multi-unit structures.
“I kept asking people, how does this make any sense? Wouldn’t you want lower density versus multi stories? Apparently, a long time ago, people were concerned that you would sell them off as time-shares so they wanted them in multiple unit buildings.”
So, Rowan is headed to the ZBA with the project, to get a variance from the multi-unit rule. He is hopeful of his prospects with the ZBA but is also realistic. He has been locked up in litigation with the town for several years now over Duryea’s Lobster Deck, one of several other properties he owns in Montauk. If the ZBA turns down his request, he will return to Rouhani’s initial design, which would meet the multi-unit rule and would not need any variances, likely to his neighbor’s chagrin over the two story building in the plan.
Rowan talked about some of his other East End holdings. For example, he owns the building on Main Street in Southampton Village in that formerly housed that housed the Morris Photography Studio for 125 years.
“I renovate and preserve historic buildings. I’m a frustrated architect,” Rowan said. “Everybody was going to be something other than what they are, but it all works out fine. I love design. I love building.”