This may be a bit of a déjà vu editorial, so forgive us, but some issues bear repeating.
Given what we’ve been seeing coming down the pike lately in the form of good sized renovation projects, we feel it would be beneficial for the village to develop a list of comprehensive long-term goals. We’re talking specifically here about issues that affect our waterfront — from development on Long Wharf to pollution in the cove and development in historic neighborhoods inundated with storm water.
There. We’ve said it. Now, let’s explore why….
Take this week’s news, for example, and the plan that William Egan has put forth to expand and raise his historic Garden Street home, much to the chagrin of neighbors.
This is not an issue related so much to the aesthetics of the project (though from a historical perspective is certainly something that needs to be considered), but rather flooding which has greatly affected the area in recent years.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Egan is doing the absolute right thing — building up his property and thereby raising his house above the potential reach of a storm surge — such as that which Superstorm Sandy delivered last October, ravaging this particular neighborhood with significant flooding.
But for neighbors, the raising of the property means the threat of increased flood waters pushed from Egan’s property only furthering the impact to their own inundated properties.
The fact is, with the economy turning around and Sag Harbor now designated as “the place to live” on the East End, more people are buying homes in the historic district. These are people with the money and means to renovate and expand their old homes, much as Egan is, some in flood plains who will also be asked to comply with FEMA recommendations.
We believe it is incumbent on the village to consider developing a comprehensive plan where we truly understand the facts and options surrounding issues of drainage and historic preservation in flood prone areas.
Similarly, this village has been fighting to preserve its identity and authenticity for decades, which is largely why the village zoning code was revised in 2009. But now, four years down the road, can we definitely say it’s working as well as we hoped? Are there sections of the code that haven’t been as effective at preserving this village in the way want? Is it time to revisit our residential code in addition to our commercial code?
Because we should have an opinion on that — we should revisit those parts of the code we’re not thrilled with now, before a building project comes along that will cause the village to respond reactively rather than proactively.
While the village has been good at tackling big projects like the remediation of Havens Beach which is scheduled to begin within weeks – that was a plan 27 years in the making, there are a number of long-term projects we see looming. Road run-off and septic intrusion continue to be an issue elsewhere in the village — just look at the red tide event we experienced in the cove last summer. Then there’s the talk about potential uses for Long Wharf, which are still largely unarticulated in any substantive way.
And this is why we would like to see the village really develop a larger comprehensive plan that incorporates all aspects of waterfront development, including drainage in flood prone areas. Rather than dealing piece meal as these issues arise, it would be wise if there were a document in place providing definitive direction for the village as more projects and storms come our way in the months and years ahead.
Let’s face facts, the waters are rising, the historic homes are aging and more new residents are looking to make this place their home. None of these issues are likely to go away soon so we’d be wise to get out in front of them. Call it flood insurance if you will. An effort to stem the tide be it due to Mother Nature or human encroachment.