Harbor Committee Approves a Limited Buffer

Posted on 17 November 2011

The most basic tool the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee has at its fingertips to improve water quality is to demand natural vegetative buffers to any wetlands when homeowners on the waterfront improve their properties.

For three months now, the Harbor Committee has been wrestling to require homeowners meet even the minimal requirement — a 25-foot vegetative buffer to any flagged wetlands area. The village law actually requires the board demand 75-feet of vegetative buffer, but with the many undersized lots in Sag Harbor, the committee is allowed to reduce that requirement to 25-feet.

After months of debating whether or not to require one of the Harbor Committee’s own board members to meet that minimal standard, on Monday night the committee’s chairman Bruce Tait was the lone vote against board member John Christopher’s application.

Christopher — the newest member of the Harbor Committee — is adding a one-story addition to the landward side of his 92 Redwood Road home, some 80-feet from the wetlands. His current home sits about 45-feet from the wetlands. The Christopher family originally asked the committee to grant them the permit with no vegetative buffer to the flagged wetlands, pointing to the fact that while neighbors have cut back their wetlands they have maintained theirs.

It is illegal to cut back wetlands, under village law and under the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regulations.

After months of debate, the Christophers came back with a plan that shows 15-feet of vegetative buffer. They have argued any more of a buffer would make their lawn too small to enjoy.

Under their proposal, the Christophers would have 28-feet of lawn on the most heavily planted side of their yard, and 50-feet of lawn on the least heavily planted side.

“I think the buffer is adequate given the size of the lawn,” said board member Dr. Tom Halton.

Board member Jeff Peters agreed, praising the Christophers for not cutting back their wetlands in the first place.

Tait cautioned the board that without being very specific about why the Christopher property should be allowed to not meet the minimum requirement laid out in the village’s wetlands code, they could be setting a precedent.

“I think we have to take these case by case,” countered Dr. Halton.

The committee approved the Christopher application, with Tait voting against the measure. A permit will be formally voted on at next month’s December 12 meeting.

The board also unanimously granted David Sokolin a wetlands permit to construct a pool in an existing deck space, provided he provide 20-feet of vegetative buffer to the deck.

Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren noted that the board could allow this exception simply because the footprint of the Sokolin house is not expanding, and the pool is being reconstructed in its original location on an existing deck.

Lastly, T & K Redwood Associates at 64 Redwood Road will be granted their permit next month to allow for the demolition of a non-conforming residence, the reconstruction of a new home, decks, spa and pool. They have agreed to plant a 30-foot vegetative buffer to the wetlands.

In addition to the board’s December 12 meeting, the committee agreed to host a work session on Friday, December 9 at 10 a.m.

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One Response to “Harbor Committee Approves a Limited Buffer”

  1. Tom Halton says:

    Hi Kathryn – Just a correction. The Christophers did have a vegetative buffer in place but it was deemed too small. They added to that existing buffer, at the request of the HC.. They did not, as far as I know, start out with no buffer at all. Best regards To Halton

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