The Rhinebeck Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board have both unanimously approved the new plans for an addition and other modifications to Carolyn Blackwood's house at 64 Grinnell Street.
The ZBA had denied Mrs. Blackwood’s initial request for an area variance in August. She then withdrew the application from the Planning Board and filed a new application and a new design with both boards in November.
The new proposal, as Mrs. Blackwood's attorney, George Rodenhausen, told the ZBA in a presentation back in November, is totally redesigned. (The site plans are here, and the minutes to the ZBA meeting are here.)
In the original plan, the house was 4,096 square feet — much more than twice the Rhinecliff average
of 1,640 SF, and significantly more than the 2,300 SF permitted by Rhinecliff zoning. The size was one of the main issues cited by the ZBA when it denied the first request for an area variance.
The new design calls for a house with a floor area of 2,962 square feet. That is still about 660 square feet more than permitted by zoning, so the applicant again requested an area variance from the ZBA. This time around, the ZBA granted the variance with a unanimous vote on December 17.
As noted in the ZBA's resolution, "unlike the last application where there were many opposed to the prior application, there was no person opposing the application outright." Robert Heywood voiced concerns about the possible effect on the views from his parents' house to the south, but everyone else who spoke at the meeting expressed support.
Another of the main changes from the first plan is that there is no longer a long, tall hedge running from the house to the garage. The hedge would have blocked a view of the river from Grinnell Street, and it was one of the main points of controversy about the original plan.
As with the first proposal, the new design involves removing a 1997 addition to the nineteenth-century house and restoring the exterior with new siding and traditional windows. The applicant has requested and received a demolition permit in order to do this work, which will also require jacking the house up while work is done on the foundation and basement area.
Like the old plan, the new plan features an addition located a slight distance from the original house, but with a difference. In the first plan, the original house and addition appeared as independent structures, and they were connected by a hallway in the lower level (largely below street grade). In the new plan, the house and addition are connected by an above-ground hallway.
The goal, explained Mr. Rodenhausen, is to fit in with the traditional Rhinecliff grouping pattern, with a two-story structure connected to a one-story structure. Connecting the two structures this way, rather than through the lower level, is also more efficient in terms of the space needed for circulation. That's one of the reasons the new plan involves less square footage than the original proposal.
The side of the hallway facing the street will be be made of etched glass. The new addition will have stone-clad walls on the south and east sides, and a gabled roof, not the flat roof of the original design. The front entrance will be visible from the street, as opposed to the first design, which hid the entrance behind a hedge as part of the "hidden pavilion in a garden" scheme.
The new design thus addresses nearly all of the issues that had been raised concerning the first proposal with respect to size, design, and relationship to the neighborhood. In its letter to the ZBA, Hudson River Heritage reviewed these changes and then stated the following: "Given all of these modifications, as well as the demonstrated sensitivity both to the concerns of Ms. Blackwood's fellow hamlet residents and to the spirit and intent of the standards described in the town comprehensive plan and zoning law, Hudson River Heritage is pleased to endorse the current applications."