By Kathryn G. Menu
After more than a year in front of the Sag Harbor Planning Board, John Leonard’s proposal to build a convenience store and reconfigure the Harbor Heights Service Station will finally move into the jurisdiction of the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). That board that will ultimately decide the project’s fate.
On Tuesday night, the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board voted in a straw poll to empower Sag Harbor Village Attorney Denise Schoen to draft a negative declaration on the proposed project. This means the planning board does not believe from an environmental perspective that the project has the potential to pose a significant adverse impact on the community.
Leonard has proposed redeveloping the property on Route 114 in Sag Harbor by demolishing the existing, blue gas station building and putting in a new building, which would host a convenience store. The existing Sag Harbor Service Station business is also proposed to be expanded with its own office and bathroom space.
A new layout for gas pump islands, more pumps and new curb cuts to make the station safer to enter and exit are proposed in Leonard’s plans, as is new landscaping, lighting and parking configuration.
The project has drawn the ire of some neighbors, as well as the not-for-profit organization Save Sag Harbor. Both groups have questioned specifically the size of the convenience store, which as proposed is over 1,000 square feet where a 2009 code revision only allows convenience stores as accessory businesses to gas stations in Sag Harbor Village if they are 600 square feet or smaller.
This is where the Sag Harbor ZBA steps in.
The ZBA will have to rule on a number of variances for Leonard’s vision to become a reality, most significantly whether or not the store can remain at its proposed size.
On Tuesday night, Sag Harbor environmental planning consultant Rich Warren noted that Leonard’s team has imposed a number of measures to reduce the environmental impact of the project. These measures include increasing a landscaping buffer around the property and decreasing lighting on the property in an effort to appease neighbors.
However, on Tuesday night planning board chairman Neil Slevin noted that while the board has assuaged its worries in terms of an environmental impact, the true reckoning with the Harbor Heights application will lie in the ZBA’s hands.
“Until the ZBA rules on necessary variances the applicant is looking for we really don’t have an application with a site plan we can work on,” said Slevin. “The public needs to keep in mind this process is not complete because the applicant still has the review of various boards to go through.”
“I think we have reached a point where there is not much more we can do one way or the other,” agreed board member Nat Brown.
“I have thought about it, I have researched it myself and as we have gone along and identified and eliminated impacts as they occurred one by one. I now feel comfortable with pushing this on to its fate, which is with the ZBA,” agreed board member Larry Perrine.
The Sag Harbor Village Planning Board will officially adopt its negative declaration on the Harbor Heights project at its October 23 meeting.