John Jermain Expansion One Step Closer

Posted on 05 March 2010

The John Jermain Memorial Library this week cleared its first obstacle in the Sag Harbor Planning Board’s review of its 7000-square-foot expansion and restoration plan, moving a step closer to public review and examination by the historic preservation and architectural review board and the village zoning board of appeals.

On Monday, March 1, the planning board officially deemed the library’s application complete after months of gathering information. The board will now begin its formal review of the project, likely starting with a public session sometime in April or May.

Members of the library board and its director Catherine Creedon, accompanied by the library’s architects, planner and contractor, breathed sighs of relief as the resolution was passed after being told at two previous meetings the village needed more information on issues like parking, sewage, landscaping and adjacent property owners before the project could move forward.

The board and its village consultants, however, stressed this was just a first step and there would be a number of issues to explore before John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) can break ground on its new facility. Creedon has expressed hope the library could do so in time for its centennial celebration in October.

Creedon said she looks forward to presenting the public, which this summer approved the library’s request for almost $10 million in funding for the project, with the trustee’s plans.

“One of the great things about last night was it freed me up to be a little excited about this project,” said Creedon. “This winter we have been compromised in providing services because of the degradation of the building.”

According to Creedon, a skylight is leaking so badly that during a program last week, patrons shifted throughout the room to avoid falling water. While Creedon has already purchased fleece blankets to contend with an unreliable heating system, she joked this week she might also be purchasing umbrellas.

In addition to repairing and restoring the historic library building, which was first constructed in 1910, the library proposes a 7,000 square-foot addition on the rear of the building. Modern in style, it resembles a glass cube. In addition to planning board and ARB approval, the project will also require variances from the zoning board.

On Monday, Sag Harbor Village Planning Consultant Rich Warren said the library has provided enough material to move forward, but that he still has a number of questions.

The library has no on-site parking spaces and hopes to continue to rely on public parking around the library after the addition is complete. Planner David Emilita states that within 800 feet of the library there are 243 on-street spaces, with 231 considered available to the library after considering homes that require on-street parking.

Emilita estimates the village code only requires 84 spaces for the library, with a parking demand at 47 spaces at peak hours of operation based on traffic studies.

Planning Board member and acting chairman Greg Ferraris said he would prefer to acknowledge there is not enough parking –- knowing the board can move forward regardless – rather than set a precedent by allowing on- street parking to stand in for on-site parking. Ferraris said he wasn’t discouraging the library from creating a plan for parking, but is concerned that private developers down the road could use the plan as a precedent.

“They are going to need to provide some proof to the ZBA,” replied Warren, adding that the issue should be addressed sooner rather than later.

Village attorney Tohill said the approval could be limited specifically to the library, a public institution seeking to create an addition for the public good. His advice is for the planning board move forward alone.

In addition to the ZBA, the library will also need approval from the

Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to extend the village sewer line to the Main Street location. Sag Harbor sewage treatment plant engineer Paul H. Dietrich has reported the plant could accommodate the anticipated 1,825.5 gallons per day of sewage expected from the library, as well as three other residences and the Custom House, all which may or may not have to hook up to the line in order for it to be extended.

On Tuesday, Creedon said she hoped to have a preliminary meeting set up with village board members sometime this month.

“It’s not the end of the discussion,” said Warren. “It’s the beginning of the discussion, so to speak.”

Warren said first and foremost, he believes a public hearing could help guide the board’s review.

“I think it would be helpful to know what the concerns of the public are so we know we haven’t missed anything,” Warren said. “That may help us determine the review process we go through.”

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