Categorized | Government, Page 1

Bulova Leaps Its Final Hurdle

Posted on 28 August 2008

At Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Planning Board meeting, likely one of the biggest redevelopment projects in village history was approved with just a handful of residents in the audience, along with attorneys, an environmental advocate and a lone member of the press on hand to witness the event.

The Bulova Watchcase Factory restoration and redevelopment is for a 65-unit luxury apartment building in the historic factory building and seven townhouses, which will contain 16 of the units. A recreation center, with indoor pool, and an underground parking facility is also planned for the project, which estimates have shown could cost nearly $100 million to complete.

The factory building, which for 100 years operated as the industrial heart of the village under a number of company banners until its doors were closed in the early 1980s, has remained dormant for over 20 years, although a few have tried, and failed, to redevelop the site. The property, located at Division and Church streets, is a state Superfund site, and remediation is ongoing and required for the luxury apartment project to move forward.

On Tuesday, the anticlimactic approval followed a 40-minute reading of the planning board resolution for approval by Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill. The resolution outlined both the specific project the planning board was approving, as well as 70 elements of the plan that are contingent for the approval to stick.

Included in the tome were a number of mitigation measures to avoid traffic, noise, and odor issues on the site and in the surrounding neighborhood, as well as a schedule for the developers’ payment of over $2.5 million into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.

Affordable Housing emerged as one of the key issues in the debate surrounding the luxury development. Last April, the Suffolk County Planning Commission ordered the project boast 20 percent on-site affordable units – the equivalent of 13 units under the plan’s current layout. In turn, the developers – Sag Development Partners – countered by offering to help kick-start the recently proposed Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust with funding in lieu of housing. The proposal set the stage for what was the most hotly debated issue, as both the planning and zoning boards mulled over whether to override the county and accept funding in lieu of housing, or demand on-site housing be included in the project.

Ultimately, both chose to overrule the county, although the chairman of the zoning board did personally recuse himself from the application a week before that board voted unofficially on the measure. Two weeks ago, the zoning board officially overruled the county, and granted a number of required variances for the project. The resolution adopted by the planning board on Tuesday solidified their position on the matter.

As a part of the override, the board requires $582,600 of $2,524,600 be paid to the trust upon the issuance of the first building permit for a residential unit. Following the first payment, $194,200 must be paid each time the developers receive certificates of occupancy for the first five units, and the same amount each time they receive a certificate of occupancy for the tenth to fifteenth units.

“We’re done,” said Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planner Rich Warren, when planning board chairman Neil Slevin asked what follows the approval.

And technically, Warren is correct. This is the last village approval needed for the project, although Sag Development Partners is currently in the process of trying to obtain its building permit from the Village of Sag Harbor Building Department. According to project spokesman David Kronman, Sag Development Partners also needs its New York State Department of Environmental Conservation approval, which he expects in roughly 30 days, as well as the Suffolk County Health Department. Kronman noted the state attorney general must also review the project’s offering plan before the company can start selling units, although they will need to see the building permit before that moves forward.

The economy, and in particular the credit and housing markets, has changed drastically from the climate Sag Development Partners was looking at two years ago when they started this process, noted Kronman on Wednesday. The project sponsors even took a two-month hiatus this spring to reevaluate the economy, but ultimately came back to the village for approval.

“We are making good progress on that front and certainly last night will make it a lot easier,” said Kronman, noting many of the lender loans are contingent on planning board approval. “This was a big step in the right direction.”

                                                                    Ferry Road

In other planning board news, the board adopted a positive declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of the 18-unit condominium project which is proposed on the waterfront on a parcel next to the 7-Eleven.

A positive declaration means the developers must submit to extensive environmental review under SEQR, which will be conducted by the planning board.

Citing numerous potential adverse environmental impacts, village planner Rich Warren painstakingly walked the board through reams of information on the project and impacts it could have to water quality, the land, surface and ground water, aesthetics and the growth and character of the community, to name a few.

Warren recommended following the adoption of the positive declaration, the board schedule a public scoping session on the project for its next meeting, on September 23 at 7 p.m. The scoping session, said Warren, is designed to help focus an environmental impact statement on specific issues of concern by the community.

The Ferry Road condo plan has been under fire by a number of community groups, including the Save Our Waterfront group, which formed in opposition to the development. While architectural plans have been submitted for the plan earlier this summer, according to project attorney Dennis Downes, the plans are subject to change.


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