For those building a home in East Hampton, it is likely that you will hear of the so-called Pyramid Law or possibly even need a variance from it. While many get confused as to when the Pyramid Law applies, it is best viewed as a supplement to the height restrictions for residences. The Pyramid Law, § 255-11-72 (D) of the Town Code, reads as follows:

Pyramid law.[1] Except on lots in any Central Business District, all buildings and structures on any lot in any district must be set back from all property lines so that the height of any point of the building or structure is not greater than the horizontal distance of the point from an imaginary vertical line (the “measurement line”) drawn upwards from the nearest property line to the building at that location. The height of each point shall be measured from the elevation of the natural grade at the measurement line. Notwithstanding any language in this subsection, the maximum height limitation for a building or structure in § 255-11-10 hereof shall not be exceeded at any point unless the structure is one exempted from such maximum height limit by Subsection E hereof.

Obviously, this is not the clearest language. The best way to look at the Pyramid Law is by way of example: In a B residence zone, the maximum building height is 25 feet, or 30 feet for a gabled roof. However, regardless of the height, the Pyramid Law adds another consideration to the height restriction, which is that the building height, at any point, must not be taller than the distance to the property line. For a gabled roof that is 30 feet at the highest point, the property line must be at least 30 feet away from that point. Further, if the roof line is only 20 feet tall, it must be at least 20 feet from the property line at that point. Please see diagram below.

This becomes an issue when the setbacks for a given property are only 15 or 20 feet, like in a B residence zone. A property can be conforming to the setbacks and the maximum height, yet still violate the Pyramid Law.

There are exceptions to the Pyramid Law for chimneys, flagpoles, telephone poles, and a variety of other structures.

Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding the Pyramid Law.

PLEASE NOTE that this article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship and the information within does not substitute for a consultation with an attorney.

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