While attending zoning board of appeals (ZBA) meetings over several years is not an ideal pastime for most residents in Sag Harbor, speaking from experience, chances are you will learn a lot.
As of late, and particularly as we appear to be emerging from the Great Recession, Sag Harbor Village continues to see incredible growth. The condominiums at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory not withstanding, from a residential real estate perspective we have seen a number of village properties snapped up in recent years, and after closing there seems to be a singular goal in mind—expansion.
As anyone with knowledge about the village will tell you, zoning was created long after the property lines in Sag Harbor were drawn. Tight, almost urban-like parcels make up the majority of our residential neighborhoods and in many ways this defines us architecturally, but also from a planning perspective. Sag Harbor, as it is, is an ideal community under basic Smart Growth standards. We are a walkable community, a population of cyclists; our downtown is easily accessible by residents within the two-square miles that make up our village. We are lucky.
Lately, however, it appears the “bigger is better” mentality has become a calling card for new homebuyers. No longer placated by simply having a tony residence on the waterfront, or in downtown, many seek variances from the village’s ZBA to expand their homes further beyond what are already constrained parcels.
To be fair, there are many applications where homeowners seek modest expansions — less than 100 square-feet — to allow minimal extra space to fill their needs. Many, however, seek expansions raising homes beyond 4,000 square-feet — a more than reasonable living space for most — cramping in expansions on already undersized parcels.
With the understanding we are already a densely populated community in Sag Harbor — and we are — further understanding that directly has an impact on nitrogen loading into our bays, which for the 10th year in a row are facing a rust tide, a toxic algae bloom that literally threatens our way of life, it is time to start taking a closer look at these applications.
Is the addition of a pool or extra dining space worth the long term impact on our environment? We think not. And with every ZBA application for these large expansions, it feels like the envelope is pushed further and further, the same attorneys arguing based on prior victories.
Sag Harbor is already a densely populated village. For the sake of our waters, enough is enough.