Harbor Committee Split Over New Code

Posted on 13 April 2009

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will have no guidance from its Harbor Committee after three members of the advisory panel reached an impasse regarding their opinion on the proposed zoning code and its impact on the waterfront district.

Despite Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait maintaining during an April 13 meeting that he believes the new code both protects the village as a whole and will not harm current waterfront business, with two members absent he was unable to sway the rest of the board that the code was in line with the guidelines set out in the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).

Specifically, it appeared as if committee members Dr. Tom Halton and Nancy Haynes were swayed by owners of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and the Sag Harbor Boat Yard and their concern over marinas, yacht clubs and boat yards being proposed as a special exception use, not a permitted use as they are currently zoned, in the new code. All current businesses would be considered pre-existing, non-conforming should the code be adopted and therefore would be able to operate as they have and even change hands without repercussions. Only if the business owners wished to change the use on their properties or seek additional uses, like the creation of a restaurant, would they fall under the proposed zoning code.

On Monday night it was Lou Grignon, owner of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, and Sag Harbor Yacht Club Director Robert Camerino who approached the committee about their concerns regarding the zoning code.

Grignon, acknowledging he should be addressing the village board on the reasons behind the zoning code changes, returned to a similar discussion broached during last month’s meeting. He has questioned whether boat yards, commercial fishing charters, yacht sales and charters, marinas, boat dealerships and yacht clubs should be changed to fall under special exception rather than a permitted use. Under special exception, any expansion or new use on a waterfront property would be subject to review that includes a discussion on whether the use would be appropriate for the neighborhood or not.

At last month’s meeting Grignon argued the plan was inconsistent with the LWRP, a planning document for the village that protects the harbor and encourages waterfront businesses, as it states the village should shy away from legislation that would adversely impact marina businesses. However, both Tait and village planner Richard Warren disagreed with Grignon’s interpretation of the LWRP, which they assert asks the village to protect what currently exists on the waterfront rather than the business potential of the waterfront. Both Tait and Warren also said during Monday night’s meeting that they did not believe the new code was detrimental to existing businesses, as they retain their permitted status as pre-existing non-conforming entities.

“Nothing by being designated special exception changes any purposes or uses of a [current] marina,” said Tait. “It stays exactly the same as it always has been. So I would just like to ask what the adverse effect is.”

Grignon countered he believes the property value is affected by this change, a notion Camerino and the board of directors of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club also used as the core of their argument against the proposed code.

“I understand that if I never ask for anything, never change, I am permitted,” said Grignon.

Tait countered with a fully developed waterfront, the LWRP mandates the village look at new uses more carefully, which he believes the new code allows. Grignon argued the marina district, eliminated in the new code, and the waterfront district, were kept separate as unique areas of the village, the Redwoods section of the waterfront more residential and the Bay Street side more industrial supporting torpedo factories and the like in its history.

Camerino, reading from a prepared statement, backed up Grignon’s concerns and added the yacht club believes an economic impact statement should be conducted before the committee weighs in on the code.

“Furthermore it is imperative that the village implement an economic impact study to determine any and all possible adverse economic effects the proposed changes to he Code may have on he business values and property values along the waterfront prior to your committee’s determination of consistency with the LWRP and prior to the village trustees approving and enacting the propped code,” writes Camerino.

 “There is just no difference for the uses that will go on in the harbor right now,” replied Tait. “There is a change for new uses and if new uses come into the harbor they need to go through the special exception process and that is appropriate because the harbor is fully developed and needs that protection.”

Haynes, who noted during the meeting that her employer Patrick Malloy III – a waterfront property and marina owner in Sag Harbor – believed the code was detrimental, and Dr. Halton indicated to Tait they could not second his motion to support the code by shaking their heads.

The trustees will hold a public hearing on the new code today, Thursday, April 16, at 5 p.m. 

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