Expansion is an Error
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 1711.
The Zoning Board of Appeals on January 15, 2013 will begin the review of a proposal submitted by John Leonard and his attorney Dennis Downes in 2010, concerning the expansion of Harbor Heights Service Station, and addition of a new-use 1,800+ square foot convenience store at 144 Hampton Street, near the corner of Jermain Street, in the Incorporated Village of Sag Harbor. The property is adjacent to the Historic District of Sag Harbor along its western boundary and is across the street from the Historic District on the north, which includes Havens Beach on Gardiner’s Bay.
Sag Harbor is in the towns of East Hampton and Southampton. The population was 2,169 at the 2010 census. The entire business district of the whaling port and writer’s colony is listed as Sag Harbor Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. The village has a total area of 2.3 square miles, of which 1.8 square miles is land and 0.54 square miles, or 22.44%, is water.
If you research Sag Harbor on Wikipedia, you will immediately see the beautiful photograph of three Sag Harbor homes with flags flying, at the corner of Hampton Street (Route 114) and Jermain. This photograph is frequently published on calendars, real estate brochures, and promotional articles extolling the beauties of the Hamptons, and especially the most historically intact of the Hampton villages at this time, Sag Harbor.
This corner is a block and a half away from the Harbor Heights property, the owner of which is requesting between 16 and 20 variances (depending on how and what you count) from the current codes that were established in 2008 after years of deliberation, community meetings and lawyer expenditures.
To get back to Alexander Pope’s astute observation, and its relevance to the Harbor Heights and Convenience Store Expansion:
Yes, human beings make mistakes. We’ve all done it, and have some serious regrets, depending on the consequences. At present, Sag Harbor village is confronted with one very serious mistake, a property at 21 West Water Street, condominiums built of glass and steel and of a size that is totally inappropriate to its location, surrounded by charming, 17th and 18th Century wood and shingle cottages. Next time you drive past the Sag Harbor Post office, watch for the cross sign “Long Island Ave and Garden Street”. Take a good look at 21 West Water Street, then turn left onto Garden Street, and you’ll be in a totally different 18th Century Lilliputian world. Gulliver ‘might’ live at 21 Water Street if he could afford it, units being priced in the low millions of $$$. Now in foreclosure, Sag Harbor village and the neighborhood must wait for the ultimate solution.
It’s a very discouraging sight, 21 West Water Street is. One that shrieks “Who approved of this glass, brick, stone and steel anachronism?”
Yes, to err is human, to forgive divine. Yes, we have to live with this. And yes, we are grateful to the many Sag Harbor citizens who give of their time and energy to serve on the various Boards, and run for political office. Yes, they too make mistakes that we must forgive. But I have heard and read several Sag Harbor residents’ comments: “Is there a special “ugly tax in Sag Harbor” and “Could lighting a match get rid of it?”
But once something so inappropriate is approved, once built, it’s hard to remove. It can be ‘for keeps.’ This CAN be a very SERIOUS mistake.
Now we have a similar “inappropriate” property up for consideration by the Zoning Board, starting next week, Tuesday, January 15, at 6:30 pm. Will the village turn out and make a strong statement about whether it is appropriate for the Village of Sag Harbor to approve another gas station, this time with four (4) pumps and eight (8) nozzles and another food and grocery store, and probably beer and cigarettes included, within the incorporated Village of Sag Harbor, population 2,169 — 2010 Census — perhaps even less today? Bright lights, noise, crowds, heavier traffic and more accidents, at the very entrance to the Historic District?!
In my lifetime, I’ve been very fortunate to live in or near two outstanding historical areas of the United States. As a college student in the Boston, MA area, I was invited to join a group of enthusiastic sailors. The fellows would rent International 110s or 210s out of Marblehead, MA, and we females would fill cold chests with home made sandwiches and drinks, and spend the day on the water. More recently, I’ve lived in Charleston, SC for a number of months, on and off. Both of these historic geographic areas have maintained their historical integrity, and that is what we who love and enjoy Sag Harbor wish to emulate, and retain. No one in Charleston would approve of building a Hess Station “south of Broad,” or on the Marblehead shore.
My 1890 Queen Ann Victorian porch is within view of the entrance to Harbor Heights. Yes, many in our neighborhood are opposed to this inappropriate invasion of a beautiful part of the Historical District. We would appreciate the support of everyone in Sag Harbor who wants to maintain the historic integrity of Sag Harbor.
Please publish this as an open letter to the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals.
I am in total agreement with the recently published letters by others also troubled by the attempt by the Harbor Heights gas station to enlarge beyond what the building codes allow. The Village quite recently went to great lengths to revise the zoning codes, and it is troubling that this effort might be swept away in the attempt to allow one business owner to gain at the expense of the rest of the Village. To allow a larger convenience store at the gateway to the Village seems antithetical to what we should be doing in order to keep our Village as beautiful and as calm as possible. I concur that in the case of hardship, we should not be rigid in the enforcement of the codes, but do we really need or want more traffic, more noise, more lights, a huge gas canopy, and other visual pollution? I say this as a long time customer of the current gas station, but think the common sense response is “no!”
Janis A. Donnaud
Facts Versus Agenda
I recently read a letter in the January 3rd edition of the Express from Bill Jones titled “Working with Crumbs.” He writes, in reference to the police department, that “Sag Harbor’s Mayor has outlined a serious budget problem that needs fixing not only for his administration, but for future administrations as well.”
I am perplexed by this statement. My guess is that Mr. Jones is attempting to play on people’s ignorance. Let me explain, Sag Harbor raises roughly $5,400,000 via tax revenue per year. At the beginning of this year’s budget (2012-13), the Village had roughly $2,000,000 in reserve. In case anyone has trouble with the math, 2 million is 39 percent of 5.4 million. So, Sag Harbor’s reserve (savings) was forty percent of the amount that it raises yearly through taxes. This is a stellar number by any measure. Once you add the roughly $2.6 million the Village takes in non-tax revenue, you get the whole $8 million Village budget. Therefore, if you base the $2 million dollar reserve figure on the entire budget of $8 million, you still have a 25 percent budget surplus at the beginning of the fiscal year. I think that by either measure one could consider this a healthy budget surplus, especially so given the problems that we have seen in surrounding municipalities. How anything in this picture equates to a “budget problem,” as Mr. Jones states, I haven’t a clue. If, since the beginning of this fiscal year the Village has managed to dig itself into a hole, then I think some people have some questions to answer. My suspicion is that this has not happened.
Although it would be convenient for the likes of people like Mr. Jones if there were real “budget problems” in Sag Harbor, the truth is that there are not. The reality is, that the Village can well afford its police department at its current staffing levels, and frankly if people cared to look at the hard facts, they would see that they receive police services for less than virtually every municipality in either Nassau or Suffolk Counties.
So, we find ourselves in the midst of a contract dispute and at the same time we are discussing reducing the police department’s manpower. Call it a coincidence if you like, but let’s be honest, Sag Harbor is not facing budget problems and is by no means “working with crumbs.”
To Mr. Jones: I know our Village’s residents fairly well, and I suspect most would ask you to keep the rhetoric and outside commentary to yourself. In Sag Harbor, we like to deal with facts, even when they get in the way of an agenda.
President, Sag Harbor PBA
They were innocent little children. Their lives had just begun.
They came to school each day and had a lot of fun.
They learned the alphabet and how to read, write and spell.
Little did they know that they would be having a rendezvous with a monster from Hell. They say he was sick and may have been obtuse, but that’s not really a very good excuse. It’s been written and carved in stone since the beginning of time:
“Thou Shall Not Kill,” said the One who’s divine.