Two years ago Mayor Greg Ferraris and Trustee Tiffany Scarlato set out to re-draft what no one can deny is an antiquated zoning code no longer able to adequately address the development of Sag Harbor. Once a sleepy, waterfront cousin to the tony Southampton and ritzy East Hampton, Sag Harbor was the “un-Hampton,” a place full of local families where a Five and Dime still exists and where Main Street is lined with merchants who actually work in their stores.
The reality is in the last two years Sag Harbor has begun to change. Less the blue collar village it once was, Sag Harbor has become very much the focus of residential and commercial development in the last several years and frankly a zoning code from 1984 could no longer handle the needs of our community, whether we like it or not. We endorse the efforts of the village to try and control, to a certain extent, what is clearly the most vibrant village on the East End.
To say we were a little concerned in the beginning is an understatement. The Express has always maintained that we do not want to see a village frozen in time, a Disneyland version of Sag Harbor for generations to come. That being said, over the course of the last two years we have watched as the trustees, village planner Richard Warren and village attorney Anthony Tohill have drafted a code that comes very close to addressing some of our concerns over the possible overdevelopment of the village, the lack of affordable housing and the preservation of our historic character without asking commercial property owners to forfeit their rights.
While we are certain not every individual or business owner will be happy with the end product before us now, we do feel the village has gone a long way in finding a balance between the wants of a populace afraid of losing the character of its beloved village and a business community afraid of being disenfranchised. Ultimately a zoning code is legislation created for the protection of the whole village, and all its residents, not for the special interests of a few. We feel the village has accomplished just that.
We are also poised to become one of the first municipalities on the East End to adopt inclusionary zoning provisions into our zoning code. The preservation of the very people who have created this wonderful village is just as important as the preservation of its visual character and we are pleased to see that was not lost on this administration.
For those coming to this process late, we are sorry they did not follow the code’s evolution more closely over the last two years for what they would have witnessed was a give and take with many concessions on all sides offered with the goal of an end result many of us can get behind. We endorse the adoption of the proposed code as is, and urge the trustees to move forward with that action.
This said, one very real concern we have is ensuring better communication is forged between the village boards, the village planners, attorneys and the building department. The building department is the gateway for many residents and business owners attempting to learn the new code and needs to be well versed in the proposed code, helpful and positive about this new legislation once it is adopted. We would suggest trustees hold several training sessions for the department, as well as the village boards, to hammer this point home.