Captain Willis House slated for demolition

Fri, 05/14/2021 - 9:30am
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The Planning Board has voted to send a favorable advisory to the Zoning Board on the application of John and Blakely Stinebaugh, of Old Greenwich, Conn. to demolish the home known as the Captain Willis House on Corn Neck Road, and to build a new single-family dwelling and accessory structure.
The home was originally built in 1860, and has at times, been operated as a bed and breakfast. It is part of a cluster of at least four homes built by members of the Willis family, including the Breakers, across the street. The Stinebaughs purchased the property in March of 2020 for $1,325,000. It was last sold in 2004 for $1,464,300 and extensively renovated in 2005.
The Planning Board had closed the public hearing on the project at a previous meeting, and on May 4 the task was to go over a checklist – “performance standards” - that needed
to be satisfied, develop special conditions, as needed, and to vote on an advisory.
Member Chris Willi recused himself as it was his first meeting as a newly appointed member of the Planning Board and he wasn’t present for the original discussions. Member William Rose recused himself as he has a business relationship with the applicant.
The application calls for a special Use Permit under Sections 306 (E), 401, and 406 of the zoning ordinances. The intent of Section 406 “is to ensure that new residential development is designed and sited in a way that complements, and does not detract from, the island’s natural, historic, cultural and scenic character, the preservation of which is to the benefit of all residents and visitors.”
Chair Margie Comings led the group through the checklist that included about a dozen items, including practical ones addressing parking, access for emergency vehicles, drainage and ISDS standards, and more esoteric standards regarding natural resources and “cultural assets.”
Passersby may have noticed the unusual angle that the under-construction accessory building is in relation to the existing home, although it will align with the new home, as shown in the rendering.
Member Christine Grele said that because of the way the siting was, there would be a “significant impact” on the street view. “What are they doing to mitigate that?”
Comings suggested that the board could come up with a list of things they would like done.
The new house is to be about 790 square feet larger than the existing home, which has eight bedrooms and three bathrooms. The first floor is 1,472 square feet, with decks, a porch and stoop that total another 1,044 square feet according to Vision Appraisal. Members discussed setbacks, the location and height of privet hedges to screen the home from the street, and even whether that privet would make pulling in and out of driveways dangerous.
The height of the building was also discussed. Comings said she had “no opinion” on that and that it “won’t be higher or lower than others on Corn Neck Road.”
Based on their discussions, the board made a list of stipulations that they would like to see.
The first was the hedge. Member Gail Ballard Hall asked if the height of the hedge had to be eight feet, feeling that it might intrude on the view of the Great Salt Pond from the
house.
The purpose was to “soften the effect of the house on the street-scape,” said Comings, although she said it could be six feet. The final recommendation was a height of at least five feet.
Setbacks were also on the list, with a suggestion that the front setback be “as much as possible.” The house was built close to the road, in the tradition of the time and the setback is limited by the existence of a well just five feet behind the house.
The final stipulation had to do with maintaining the stone walls.
The house is in the Residential A zone but the lot is 1.89 acres. Grele said “having a larger house on a substandard lot would make a ‘no’ vote for me.” And, when it came timefor the vote, Grele was indeed the lone “nay” vote, with Comings, Ballard Hall and Mary Anderson voting in the affirmative.
“I want the house to look like its been there a long time,” and to fit in with the street-scape, said Comings.
The application goes before the Zoning Board on May 26.