Whether or not local developer James Giorgio will be able to demolish the building at 125 Main Street in Sag Harbor, and rebuild with historic materials including some salvaged from the structure that dates back to the 1750s, will remain solely in the hands of the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board, according to Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill.
On Tuesday, the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board took up the matter during its work session. Giorgio received approval from that board to raise the commercial building, located next to The Latham House. That approval was seen as a part of a restoration project designed to shore-up the building through a new foundation, but also add a new commercial space on the street level in what is now a crawl space.
In May, Giorgio’s architect Chuck Thomas approached the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) about changing the plan. Instead of raising the building, said Thomas on Tuesday night, they decided to look at lowering the building two-and-a-half-feet to make two existing retail locations more accessible, rather than add the new space. Simultaneously, they discovered the condition of the building would not allow for the project to proceed as planned.
According to taped minutes of that Sag Harbor ARB meeting, major concerns surrounding the condition of the building revolved around the ability to bring it up to code while restoring the structure. Thomas, hesitant to use the word “demolition” during the May ARB meeting, as well as during Tuesday night’s discussion, said the building would be “deconstructed” and replaced “piece by piece, stick by stick.” He added that as much material would be reclaimed as possible and the rest would be replaced with historic materials.
In order to accomplish this, Giorgio would need a demolition permit from the Sag Harbor ARB as well as site plan approval from the village planning board for the new project.
Since the plans were tentatively announced both Save Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Historical Society have come out publicly against the plan, asking for the village to require that independently employed historic preservationists weigh in on the plan before any permit is granted.
Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant Richard Warren said on Tuesday that he needed more information before he could determine what environmental review the village would need to conduct before moving forward. Specifically, he said, Giorgio needed to supply documents showing the square footage and use of any basement area.
Under village code, noted Warren, a building over 3,000 square feet undergoing this kind of project could require extensive environmental review. He asked that building inspector Tim Platt be brought in to review the square footage of the building before the planning board moves forward.
Warren added he was concerned about the building being lowered in elevation to the point where the grading of the property in the rear of the building would be higher than the proposed new building. He asked Thomas for a full plan to contend with that issue.
Thomas stressed Giorgio was not looking at add any square footage to the existing building, and that the duo had addressed grading issues at the adjacent 127 Main Street property recently, cutting and filling the rear yard to fit in with an addition there.
While there was some discussion between Thomas and Tohill about the sentiment of the Sag Harbor ARB on the demolition of the building, ultimately, Tohill said the decision of whether or not to allow that to move forward rested solely in that board’s hands.
Thomas was cautious when the word “demolition” was raised. He stressed the plan, if approved, was to document the conditions of the building, verify its state, salvage what is possible and reconstruct the building in exact proportions to what exists now.
“We are not looking to go in with a wrecking ball and come back in with a new style and new building,” he said.
Thomas agreed with Warren and Tohill that the Sag Harbor ARB’s decision in the case was critical.
“We need a decision one way or the other,” he said.
“It is up to the ARB to make the determination on whether or not the building can be demolished or not,” said planning board member Gregory Ferraris.
The next meetings of the Sag Harbor ARB, although the application has yet to be scheduled with the building department, will take place on July 14 and July 25 at 5 p.m.