Says Portrait is Inaccurate
In addition to its incorrect grammar, the first sentence of your leading article for Thursday, August 29 (Waterfront Condo Plan May Expand) is untrue. I have crossed the Jordan C. Haerter Bridge and its predecessors countless times in the fifty years I have lived in Sag Harbor and the “first thing” drivers see, unless they are aesthetically challenged, is our beautiful waterfront, not the Dickensian horror that your writer falsely describes along the inner shoreline. It is not clear what parking lot “next to the Seven Eleven” is “garbage strewn,” but the village parking lot adjacent to the bridge and facing the Seven Eleven is immaculate. If there is another parking lot “next to the Seven Eleven,” the solution is to clean it up, not erect a huge condominium in its place. The building along the shore needs repairs but is not “dilapidated”* and the “graffiti whale” she ungrammatically objects to is barely visible, while the proposed condominium, no matter how its architect tries to disguise its dimensions, will always be a misplaced monstrosity. The first principle of journalism (apart from correct grammar) is objectivity in search of truth. If your writer wants to make a case for the proposed condominium by falsely describing the existing site she should write an editorial or buy space for a paid advertisement. She should also know that graffiti is a plural noun and cannot refer to a single image. The singular form for the whale is graffito.
*Dilapidated: “fallen into ruin or disrepair, ruined, broken down.” Oxford English Dictionary
Apply Strict Zoning
Working at Save Sag Harbor’s information table on Main Street this summer has given us the opportunity to hear concerns from village neighbors and from those in adjacent communities. Some people have asked what Sag Harbor had to be “saved from,” and others wondered what we did with monies raised from the sales of raffle tickets and other merchandise.
We explained that our mission is to preserve the character and quality of life in our Village by opposing out-of-scale development with funds going mainly for the legal defense against challenges to Sag Harbor’s new, hard-won village zoning code. Responses were for the most part grateful and supportive.
As you know, a major issue we have taken on is the proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights gas and service station on Hampton Street / Route 114 which is situated in a wholly residential area adjacent to the historic St. David AME Zion Church. This proposed expansion deserves watching because it represents the first serious challenge to the new Village Zoning Code. The expansion is now before the Zoning Board of Appeals. It’s worth underscoring that the ZBA is not a place to negotiate the zoning code, but a board designed to provide limited flexibility only when a developer shows real hardship. Applications for multiple variances (like the 17 variances that the Harbor Heights gas station originally requested) should be greatly disfavored by the ZBA because they promote substantial non-compliance with the Sag Harbor Zoning Code.
A Zoning Code should be predictable and standard. It should be changed as little as possible and then again only when the applicant is able to show real hardship if the variance is not granted. Otherwise the Code risks becoming simply a preference or a suggestion enabling aggressive developers to easily seek multiple variances.
Applicants should begin with plans that demonstrate that every effort was made from the start to be code conforming, rather than first burdening the Zoning Board of Appeals with a long list of requested variances that must be negotiated down or away. The latter process is expensive and time consuming.
It is our opinion that the best protection of the quality of life in our village is a strong Zoning Code that is vigorously enforced.
Currently the variances requested by Harbor Heights would allow double the number of pumps and the construction of a 15 foot high by 96 foot-long lighted, canopy island. The addition of a new convenience store still much larger than allowed in the code would significantly increase noise, traffic and night light. Further, the landscape buffering does not nearly meet the code requirements thereby not protecting the homes around it.
Hundreds of residents have signed petitions against these proposed changes.
As a “pre-existing, non-conforming use,” Harbor Heights is by nature legally subject to strong restrictions against use expansion, as the law logically leans towards phasing out such uses.
We urge the ZBA to stand firm and require that the plans for Harbor Heights conform to only what is allowed by the Sag Harbor Zoning Code. The current proposal is, in our view, still primarily only in the interest of the applicant and contrary to the best interests of Sag Harbor and its residents.
This major development is the first of what will undoubtedly be many challenges to the Zoning Code in the not so distant future. We believe the best way to insure the preservation of Sag Harbor’s scale and character is to pay very close attention to these challenges.
Myrna Davis, Nick Gazzolo, Mia Grosjean, Joy Lewis, Hilary Loomis, Susan Mead, John Shaka, Bob Weinstein and Jayne Young,
The Save Sag Harbor Board