Redesigned Mansion Won't Satisfy Locals

For MTKogan
GREENWICH, Connecticut -- Russian millionaire Valery Kogan faced renewed criticism from Greenwich residents over his revised plans for a mansion that will include 15 bathrooms, a pool lit by fiber optics and a winter garden with statues that may resemble "guitar gods."

Kogan and his wife, Olga, modified an original plan for a 5,000-square-meter house with 26 toilets that was rejected by town planners in a 3-2 vote in May.

It would have been the largest single-family home built in the Connecticut town since it began reviewing plans in 2001.

The revised design calls for 3,500 square feet of space and only 15 toilets.

"We object to this proposal on three grounds: scale, traffic and use," Charles Lee, who lives across the street from the site, said during a Jan. 20 hearing before the Greenwich planning commission. "It's a big limestone government-like building" and "isn't at all consistent with Simmons Lane."

Kogan, who has a net worth of $600 million according to the February 2008 issue of the financial news magazine Finans, is chairman of the East Line Group, which operates Domodedovo Airport in Moscow.

He bought the 2.8-hectare site in 2005 and said he planned to raze the 1,850-square-meter structure currently on the lot. That house was built in the 1920s by Zalmon Simmons of mattress maker Simmons, said Leslie Lee, Simmons's great-granddaughter, who also lives on the street.

Two neighborhood associations, the Northeast Greenwich Association and Round Hill Association, also oppose the new house, saying it is part of a trend of "mega-mansions" that threatens the quality of life in the wealthy New York City suburb.

According to statements by the commissioners and Kogan's architect during the hearing, the millionaire added to his plans an indoor pool in the basement and a gym totaling more than 110 square meters.

The basement also will feature a theater seating 12, a billiards room, game room, massage room and wine cellar.

The plans include fiber optics that arch into an outdoor swimming pool. The house is to have a patio shaped like an electric guitar and a winter garden with four statues that may represent the four elements, seasons, senses or four "guitar gods," according to notes in the plans.

The septic system will be large enough for 480 -people, twice the size required under law.

The commissioners said they attempted to determine whether large parties thrown at the house would overwhelm the narrow lane on which it is situated.

"It would appear to be designed with the aim of entertaining large numbers of people," Commissioner Raymond Heimbuch told architect Richard Granoff, who designed the house and appeared at the hearing. "Why would anyone in a private residence who wasn't planning on massive -entertainment want 15 toilets?" Commissioner Frederic Brooks asked. "And game rooms," Heimbuch added.

The Kogans "just like big spaces," Granoff answered. "There is a bathroom for each bedroom, and then there are powder rooms convenient to every part of the house."

Granoff said the Kogans were private people who planned to use the house's amenities for themselves.

In an effort to assuage commissioners and residents, the Kogans modified the plans by pushing the house back on the lot and seeking to cover a lit rotunda to shield neighbors from ambient light, according to planning documents.

Granoff declined to comment beyond his comments at the hearing. Valery Kogan could not be reached for comment in Moscow.

The commissioners have not voted on the proposal.