By Kathryn G. Menu
Development that is allowed by law on a property is not always the best development for a community.
At least, that’s what engineer Chris Tartaglia argued in front of the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday night while discussing a proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights Gas Station, which would also include a new convenience store on Hampton Street.
Owner John Leonard hopes to demolish the existing 1,874 square-foot gas station and erect a 1,842 square-foot building that will include a 1,000 square-foot convenience store. The new building would be constructed perpendicular to Route 114, connecting to the service station, which Leonard also hopes to expand with a new bathroom and office. Gas pumps would also be moved perpendicular to the street and to the north side of the property, covered by a 20-foot high canopy. The pumps would also be expanded to four double sided pumps with eight nozzles.
In May the zoning board also began to weigh in on the plan, which will require six variances to move forward. Two neighbors and the president of Save Sag Harbor expressed concern over the size of the development last month. On Tuesday night, Tartaglia argued that re-configuring the project to meet village code would only result in a project that would not suit the neighborhood.
Tartaglia presented the board with a site plan for what the proposal would look like if his client attempted to meet as many village codes as possible. In that plan, much like a traditional service station, the fueling pumps would be adjacent to the roadway and in front of a convenience store and the service station that would also face the road.
“The key issue to this plan is there is simply not enough space,” said Tartaglia, noting there is insufficient clearance between the fueling stations and the store for cars to easily pull in and out.
Tartaglia said that was not the only problem with the plan. Under Leonard’s proposal, 32 parking spaces are accommodated on the site, but, due to space constraints, just 19 are included in the “as of right” plan, meaning Leonard would need a significant parking variance.
Board member Michael Bromberg questioned the impact the original proposal would have on traffic, noting Leonard states in an environmental impact form filed with the village that the proposal will not result in an increase in traffic.
“I don’t think that is accurate,” said Bromberg.
Tartaglia said in his 15 years gaining approvals for projects like this, studies have shown consistently that while convenience stores may draw existing traffic into a service station, they do not create new traffic.
From an architectural perspective, Tartaglia presented the board with a squatter version of the new Harbor Heights building, which could be built without a height variance. It’s a design Tartaglia and Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes said the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board would not likely be happy with.
Architect Jim Laspesa, who designed the new station for Leonard, said from his perspective the shorter building and new location shown in the “as of right” plan were not appealing. The massing created in facing the store and service station along the roadway would have a negative impact on the neighborhood, he said.
“It would be less intrusive if it ran perpendicular to the street as planned,” said Laspesa.
Tartaglia also tackled the ongoing debate about the size of the convenience store, which is proposed to be about 1,000 square-feet, 400 square-feet larger than is allowed under village code.
Tartaglia argued that when aisle space used by gas station customers, not just convenience store customers, is taken out of the equation, the square footage of the store falls under 600 square-feet.
Board chairwoman Gayle Pickering said she would like the board to visit the site with Tartaglia to gain a better understanding about what is being proposed. Leonard welcomed the idea.
In response to concerns by neighbors, Downes said they have discussed screening with neighbor Michel Butler and creating a retaining wall for neighbor Michael Eicke to ensure erosion does not occur on his property.
Lastly, Downes gave the board a petition with 140 names, some of them neighbors, who support the proposal.
“I think we have community support,” he said. “The issue is how we address any concerns neighbors have,” said Downes.
Gloria Brown, who lives on Liberty Street, said she and other neighbors were concerned about traffic increasing on their road as a result of the development, which Bromberg agreed the board should consider as an impact to the neighborhood. He wondered if, like 7-Eleven, Harbor Heights would become a social hang out.
“I don’t want to compete with 7-Eleven,” said Leonard. “That is not what we are trying to do. We are not downtown in the village, we are not open 24-hours a day. We just want to compliment gas sales so we can stay in business, because there is no money in pumping gas.”
Barbour Elected to Sagaponack Village Board As Write-In
Last Friday, write-in candidate William Barbour, Sr. handily defeated incumbent Sagaponack Village Board member Patrick Guarino, who campaigned as a write-in candidate after he did not turn in his nominating petition in time to get his name on the ballot.
Barbour earned 68 write-in votes to Guarino’s 27. Incumbent board member Joy Sieger, whose name was on the ballot, earned 76 votes.
Barbour and Sieger will serve two-year terms on the board.
State Assembly Adopts Complete Streets Legislation
This week, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced that the state assembly has passed the “Complete Streets” legislation, which would encourage transportation officials to consider specific guidelines when planning projects, including features that accommodate access to the roadways by all individuals.
“Unfortunately, our streets are sometimes dangerous for walkers and bikers,” Assemblyman Thiele said in a press release. “Buses often have poor pullouts. And traffic — foot traffic or otherwise — can be unsafe. This bill would begin better planning practices to ensure the streets of the East End are safe for all users.”
Planners would be encouraged to implement features that include sidewalks, paved shoulders for bicycle use, bicycle lanes, “Share the Road” signage, lane striping, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, ramps, bus pullouts and other traffic calming measures.
Under this legislation, state Department of Transportation (DOT) projects, as well as local projects that receive federal and state funding and are overseen by the DOT, would consider Complete Street guidelines. No municipality would be expected to spend local funds, over the amount allocated by federal and state aid, to meet the new guidelines, Thiele said.