By Steve Plunkett

The fifth time was the charm for James and Nadia Davis’ plan to build an 8,699-square-foot home on an oversized lot at the mouth of Polo Cove off the Intracoastal Waterway.
Their proposal was evaluated three times by the town’s Architectural Review and Planning Board and twice by the Town Commission, which bounced it back to the ARPB on Dec. 10 and gave it grudging approval on Feb. 11.
Mayor Scott Morgan, who originally complained about the massing of the structure and its need for a special exception, was the sole “no” in a pair of 4-1 votes for the exception and the overall site plan.
“It’s a beautiful home, should have been smaller,” Morgan said.
Architect Benjamin Schreier said he tweaked his plan for 588 Banyan Road by reducing the pitch of the roofs, lowering the height of the second story by 2 feet and the first story by 3 feet.
“What we’ve done is reduce the mass by 13% on this house,” Schreier said, adding that he also lowered the chimneys by 6 feet.
James Davis, who presented letters of support from 14 neighbors, called his land “a very large and unusual lot.”
“It’s a significant lot. It’s the largest core point lot in the neighborhood, and it’s worthy of a proportionate and significant home,” he said.
He also said the home conforms to Gulf Stream’s code, rules and regulations “by all objective measures” and meets the criteria for getting a special exception for a waterfront lot.
Even with the special exception, the home will be 30 feet from the water to its south, which is 5 feet farther than the existing home and twice the distance of the house on the other side of the cove’s entrance, Schreier said.
He said the Davises’ home was in the middle, size-wise, of eight point-lot homes in the town’s core district but that at 30,600 square feet its lot was the largest.
Two towering banyan trees at the entrance meant the home had to be pushed south toward the water, creating a need for the special exception, he said.
Commissioner Paul Lyons called the home an “outlier” unlike other core residences.
“I struggled with this particular application more so than any one I’ve ever looked at in 10 years,” he said.
Commissioner Donna White was pleased by the lowered roof lines, saying the original proposal made the house too lofty.
Morgan said the Davises should have removed the need for a special exception.
“You take a few square feet out of every room, you reduce one large room somewhat, you’d never notice the difference and you would have satisfied in my opinion the neighborhood district characterization that we are trying to achieve,” he said.
The plan received 5-0 approval from the ARPB on Nov. 18, was sent back by the commission on Dec. 10, was postponed by the review board on Jan. 27 to let the architect address the massing, was approved 4-0 by the board at a special meeting Feb. 3 and got its final 4-1 commission vote Feb. 11.
The commission also approved on first reading an ordinance saying that site plans for homes cannot be too dissimilar in architectural compatibility and height of building from homes within a 250-foot radius.
The ordinance was patterned after one in the town of Palm Beach. Gulf Stream already had a regulation prohibiting excessively similar structures.
“This is a way to sort of compare the streetscape as you’re driving by and ensure that we maintain the character on a sort of micro level as opposed to just from a districtwide standard,” Assistant Town Attorney Trey Nazzaro said.

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