By Kathryn G. Menu
A proposal that dates back to the 1990s to create a waterfront park on village-owned land next to the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge was revived last month, and in the new year, residents of Sag Harbor will be given a chance to weigh in with their ideas for what that park should entail.
On Monday, January 10 residents will be asked their opinions about the proposed park at a Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee meeting at 5 p.m.
Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait is leading the charge on a grant application with the State of New York to partially fund the project, which was originally conceived as the anchor in a waterfront walkway which would stretch from the Breakwater Yacht Club property on Bay Street to Long Wharf and Windmill Beach before leading to Long Island Avenue and down West Water Street.
Last month, Tait presented plans crafted by award-winning landscape architect Edmund Hollander in 1996 proposing just such a park in that location. The heavily landscaped park area, with walkways and benches, would also include two docks meant for smaller boats like 25-foot Boston Whalers, said Tait.
Trustees gave Tait their nod to pursue the planning of the project, as well as a state grant application for funding. The January Harbor Committee meeting will be the first opportunity for residents to weigh in on the project and what it should entail.
During a Thursday, November 7 Harbor Committee meeting, Tait also asked Jeff Peters, a committee member and owner of JCP Landscaping, to develop a rough estimate of the cost of landscaping that property per Hollander’s vision.
Tait said he has also reached out to a number of local dock builders for estimates on what it would cost to construct the two docks.
While Tait said he is working closely with state officials on the grant application, he added a number of residents have also approached him interested in donating privately to fund the project.
“New York State is very enthusiastic and encouraging us to do this,” said Tait. “It is something strongly supported by the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan) and we should jump into this and get it done. And it can be cone by this time next year.”
In other Harbor Committee news, the committee continued its review of a wetlands permit application by the Madeline Smith Trust on John Street. That wetlands application seeks permission for the construction of a one-story addition, screened porch, deck, second story addition, new septic system, pervious driveway and a retaining wall for the new septic system.
However, committee members continued to be concerned over what they perceive to be a lack of a true 25 foot vegetative buffer to the wetlands. While there is a buffer proposed, Tait noted it allows a pebble beach to remain unplanted.
The Harbor Committee requires a minimum 25 foot vegetative buffer to any wetland. The buffer serves as a means of bio-filtration for any stormwater runoff, fertilizers or pesticides to reduce impacts on water quality.
The trust’s attorney, Dennis Downes, said the pebble beach has existed since the 1970s. Tait countered that with all wetlands applications, the committee must be consistent in its findings and that it has made other applicants plant up to the water’s edge.
“You are inviting a lawsuit,” said Downes.
Sag Harbor Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren, of Inter-Science Research Associates, said the survey did not list the area in question as a pebble beach, but rather as a gravel patio. Tait continued to stress his reading of Sag Harbor’s village code regarding wetland setbacks does not allow for this kind of exemption.
“I am not converting a pebble beach to a vegetative wetland,” said Downes.
Warren cautioned the committee that it should cease discussing the case without its attorney present, particularly since the potential of a lawsuit had been raised.
Dr. Tom Halton, a committee member, agreed this was the law, but said making homeowners follow “it by the letter” was proving burdensome.
“We have made people with smaller areas plant,” responded Peters.
“Our wetlands and our bays are severely, severely compromised throughout this whole area and the only way we can get a handle on not further compromising our bays is to apply this buffer across the board and if we do we will win the environmental issues we are fighting,” said Tait.
The application was tabled until the committee’s December 9 meeting.