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South Cove House Downsized, Approved and Appealed

Local Matters


Published December 27, 2006 at 5:13 p.m.

BURLINGTON - In September, Seven Days published the story of Gary and Krystyna Kaminsky, a Florida couple who sparked a zoning dispute in a posh South End neighborhood ["McMansion? Not in Our Backyards," September 20]. Two years ago, the Kaminskys bought a two-story, 2800-square-foot house on the .71-acre waterfront lot at 125 South Cove Road. This fall, they sought city approval to demolish the house and build a three-story, 7600-square-foot mansion. The new residence would have been the second largest in Burlington.

The plan irked many neighbors, who feared the project would propagate the spread of mammoth, expensive dwellings and price middle-class families out of their homes. Though several houses of 4000 square feet or more have been built nearby in recent years - including a 6767-square-foot house at 99 South Cove - the average home size in the neighborhood is still just 2600 square feet.

The dispute grew heated. At one point, the Kaminksys called the cops on one of their neighbors. Several residents showed up at an emotional Design Advisory Board meeting to protest the Kaminskys' project, calling it "ostentatious," "offensive" and "a McMansion." They charged the massive structure would dramatically alter the character of their neighborhood.

The DAB agreed, and the Kaminskys withdrew their proposal.

On October 17, they submitted a new design, for a 6320-square-foot house. They increased the building's side setbacks to 15 feet, and replaced a proposed circular drive with a straight path to the house. The old design covered nearly 35 percent of the lot; the new one covers just 29 percent.

The revised plan drew praise from some neighbors. In a letter on file with the planning department, Chuck and Jann Perkins, who live down the street, wrote, "We feel that a house of this quality will enhance our neighborhood." Next-door neighbor Ronald Majewicz, who lives in one of the neighborhood's smallest houses, also wrote to the board, saying, "I have no objections to the proposed residence and would in fact welcome the new addition."

The Development Review Board approved the house on October 23, noting, "As revised, the proposed home remains larger than many, but is not so large as to be out of character with the neighborhood."

Nine South Cove residents disagreed with that assessment. They have appealed the project to Vermont's Environmental Court and are awaiting a hearing. "We're still saying it's too big," says Elisa Nelson of Austin Drive. She notes that it could be a year or more before the issue is resolved. "We're trying to keep this as friendly as we can," she says. "We're trying to work with our neighbors."

» Read the full list of 2006 news updates.