The Southampton Town Board voted on Tuesday evening to waive a final building permit fee for the Sag Harbor Methodist Congregation. In April, the parish was granted preliminary site plan approval for a new church to be built at the corner of Carroll Street and the Bridgehampton Turnpike in Sag Harbor. Since the spring, the congregation has paid between $20,000 to $25,000 in taxes and town fees in preparation for breaking ground on the project, estimated Pastor Tom MacLeod. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst said at a meeting on Friday that the building permit, costing around $6,000, is beyond the church’s means.
“There is just not enough money in their coffers for the fee and the actual building,” explained Throne-Holst who had been contacted by the church. On Friday, supervisor Linda Kabot asked if the town similarly accommodated other churches in the past. She was informed by an aide that there is a precedent for building permit waivers for religious and not-for-profit organizations.
“My understanding is that this has been done historically,” remarked MacLeod during a later interview. “We aren’t asking for the enaction of a new law. What we are attempting to do with the building is to try to take care of the community that surrounds us.”
The congregation sold their Madison Street building in 2007 to former Southampton Town Councilman Dennis Suskind for $2.9 million, but netted around $2.7 million. The group temporarily operates out of the former St. David African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Eastville Avenue.
A public hearing on the church’s plans for the new space was closed without public comment on April 9, at a planning board meeting and final site plan approval was granted in July.
MacLeod hopes to commence construction on the new building in October. The church will be 6,776 square feet and will include a sanctuary, basement, fellowship hall, kitchen, bathrooms and parking lot. Overall, MacLeod expects the project to cost between $1.3 to $1.5 million, in addition to the $695,000 cost to purchase the land, and will take nearly 10 months to complete.
The congregation first discussed selling the Madison Street location and building a new church in 2005. After several years of seeking approval with church trustees, Methodist officials and the town, MacLeod is excited to be nearing the end of the process.
“This isn’t for the faint of heart,” he said. “You have to be diligent.”