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Death Knell Sounding?

Posted on 17 April 2008

When a company takes a step back from a development project it is never a good sign, which was why we were dismayed, and are frankly concerned, about this week’s news that Sag Development Partners will take the next 60 days to assess the restoration and rehabilitation of the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

For many of us in the Village of Sag Harbor, including this paper, this action signifies the very real possibility that the project sponsors will pull out or alter what is a beautifully crafted design in order to contend with the rapidly declining, and to a certain extent non-existent, credit and housing markets.

We find even the mere possibility of the historic Bulova building continuing to sit shrouded in decay and rot, frankly, depressing. When this project was first proposed it seemed, almost, as if its approval was a foregone conclusion, albeit with massive amounts of tweaking by our venerable boards and numerous conditions associated with it.

A majority of us who live in Sag Harbor had prayed for this moment, whether because of the tax benefits, the boost to our local economy, or simply because we did not want to drive down Division Street and watch the Bulova building slowly crumble into a $10 million parking lot in front of our eyes.

But the twists and turns associated with this project have been hard to anticipate — from an affordable housing debate that seemed to reach a boiling point where many forgot about the rest of the project, to concerns about litigation, to other municipalities, frankly, not even sure how they should be involved, weighing in, then not weighing in and then weighing in again.

Should this project actually die, while some in the community have placed a large amount of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the village — either for not pushing this project through or for not conducting an environmental review in the way they believed most appropriate — we reject this notion.

The village boards, especially the planning board, scheduled an inordinate amount of special meetings representing hundreds of hours and reams upon reams of paperwork, in order to fully evaluate this proposal. They should be commended for this effort, no matter the outcome, as they have volunteered their personal time to fulfill a civic duty to our community that not many are willing to take on.

We hope the death knell has yet to sound on this project, but if it does, we hope the community places the blame on the true root of its demise — a demise we do not believe falls on the village’s clock.

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