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John Jermain Memorial Library Ready for the Next Step

Posted on 29 October 2010

John Jermain Memorial Library’s application for an expansion of its Main Street, Sag Harbor building will be presented to the public at a Sag Harbor Planning Board hearing on Tuesday, November 23 at 6 p.m.

Barring what Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren called “substantive” questions or comments about the library’s proposal by members of the public at that hearing, by state law the planning board could adopt the plan for expansion as early as December 6.

On Tuesday night, the planning board formally accepted the library’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) as complete, meaning it is ready for a public hearing. The hearing is the last step in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) before the planning board can begin discussions on whether or not to approve the plans

It has been just over a year since the library filed an application with the planning board to expand its Main Street facility with a proposed 7,725 square-foot modern addition. In August of 2009, 80 percent of residents in JJML’s library district approved funding nearing $10 million for the restoration and expansion of the library on site.

The existing library, now shrouded in scaffolding, is literally crumbling, new leaks springing with each heavy storm and an antiquated heating and air system, as well as septic system, that has made the project the focus of the library board of trustees for over a decade.

Once the library receives planning board approval, the project will still need approvals from the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board, as well as its zoning board of appeals. After the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees decided not to extend the village sewer line to JJML, library trustees have also sought approval from the Suffolk County Health Department for an on-site septic system to accommodate the new facility.

“It feels great to move forward with this project,” said JJML director Catherine Creedon on Tuesday night. “We have had new problems with leaks and the furnace at the library, so the possibility we could move to a temporary space this winter is truly exciting.”

She added that she looks forward to hearing the public’s comments about the project and the impacts it could have on the community at large.

“I hope the community, regardless of their opinions, takes advantage in participating in what has been a very public process,” she said. “I don’t just want supporters. I want everyone there.”

In other planning board news, should Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt agree with Matthew Coffin and Natasha Esch’s attorney Miles Anderson, a commercial building tucked between Il Cappuccino and the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church on Madison Street could be poised to expand its commercial space as a retail store without site plan approval from the planning board.

The building was once owned by Stephen Hadley and operated as the Headley Studio. In 2009, prospective buyer Michael Minkoff received village approval to convert the space into an art studio, but according to Anderson sold the space to Coffin and Esch instead, without making the improvement.

The two hope to renovate and expand the space, reducing the allowed pre-existing, non conforming retail space from two retail spaces to one larger home furnishing store. The plan would also reduce the number of apartments from two to one in order to accommodate the expansion of the commercial space.

On the ground floor, the owners propose to replace an existing deck at the westerly end of the building with a 162 square-foot enclosed addition for a staff lounge, with 497 square-feet added as a second story addition over that space, which would become the only apartment in the building. They would also break into the second floor apartment to create a mezzanine space of 237 square-feet for the first-floor, 1,591 square-foot retail use.

While Warren asked that sanitation, which is on-site, be shown in a survey, with parking calculations and drainage issues addressed in the pre-application, only one large question loomed for him — whether or not a deck can be converted into retail space in this plan.

In a memo to the planning board, Warren noted that in the village business district, the rear yard setback is 40 feet, while construction of the two story space on the existing deck would result in a setback of only 18.6 feet from the property line. He asked the village attorney whether or not the conversion of the uncovered exterior deck to a two-story habitable space would require zoning board of appeals approval.

Anderson argued that the certificate of occupancy lists the deck as an existing part of the primary structure, meaning that in Sag Harbor Village law it is considered part of the pre-existing, non-conforming building, as it is raised off the ground level.

“Therefore, without increasing our non-conformity, we are extending it upward,” said Anderson.

Village Attorney Anthony Tohill said that would be up to village building inspector Tim Platt to determine, but should Platt agree with Anderson, the application will not be subject to site plan approval under the new village code because it is under 3,000 square-feet and is a permitted use.

It will, however, fall under review by the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board.

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One Response to “John Jermain Memorial Library Ready for the Next Step”

  1. Lisa M. says:

    As a former customer of Headley Studio which provided unique Historical Ornaments of Sag Harbor the owner also provided low-income housing for local residents. To reduce those apartments to one large high rental is disappointing. There are enough high-end rentals but few middle class housing. In addition, each store has their own separate entrance and signage. What has made Sag Harbor special is store owners unique vision at affordable commercial rentals. I hope what had been special will continue.

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