Despite over a half-dozen public meetings on the proposed changes to the Village of Sag Harbor zoning code, and subsequent revisions, the code is now just about to embark on a public hearing process after village officials said this week they will likely complete any major changes to the draft code in the next couple of weeks.
On Monday, August 4 the village board of trustees held a work session on the proposed code. The almost three-hour session was also devoted to hearing out the close to 100 people in attendance on issues like affordable housing, formula store concerns and worries over 24-hour convenience stores making their way to Sag Harbor.
Last year the Village of Sag Harbor embarked on the creation of a comprehensive plan and full code revision aiming to protect the character and historic feel of the village, address affordable housing and to help fend off the influx of big box stores.
On Monday, Mayor Greg Ferraris announced the newest two revisions to the zoning code, including putting the Brinkley parcel on Long Island Avenue back into the Waterfront District. It had been placed in the Office District – a district that has shrunk dramatically since the code was first unveiled in April – because of its size. The village will also not require businesses use Suffolk County Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirements for accessory apartments in the Village Business District – one of the affordable housing provisions proposed in the Local Workforce Housing Plan Ferraris developed last year.
“Just by the size and nature of the apartments we hope they will retain some affordability,” said Ferraris. An accessory review board, he added, will monitor the affordability of the units over the next year to year-and-a-half to see if changes need to be made.
The Office District, and specifically moving offices out of the Village Business District, has been a section of the code a number of building owners have taken exception with. On Wednesday, Ferraris noted a vast amount of research has been completed on the topic showing retail and restaurants bolster pedestrian traffic. In neighboring municipalities, like Southampton Village, officials are considering similar changes after pedestrian traffic began to die there.
Keeping residences, not offices, on the second floor was also important to the village as it buoyed affordable housing efforts the municipality has been striving to make. Ferraris said he would like to move forward with both eliminating offices in the Village Business District and with the current boundaries of the Office District. Current offices will retain a pre-existing, non-conforming status and can even change hands as office spaces, and second floor offices will be allowed as accessory to a first floor business.
Jane Holden, a Sag Harbor resident and real estate agent who works for Town & Country – a firm recently denied exemption from the moratorium for site plan review to move into the retail space Candy & Flowers – said she found it difficult to agree with the planning board’s decision because it effectively made a certificate of occupancy for the building moot.
Ferraris said uses were being considered as they appear today, not what existed in the past. Country Lane, the space next to Candy & Flowers, albeit in the same building, once had office space.
Trustee Tiffany Scarlato noted certificates of occupancy are suppose to be updated to reflect current uses.
Resident and building owner Larry Baum said he felt the board should create a percentage of spaces in the Village Business District that can be offices.
Ted Seiter, a building owner, said he did have a second floor office and wondered what would happen to the space under the proposed code.
Ferraris explained it could remain an office, change hands as an office and as long as it was never converted to an apartment would retain that status.
“Good,” said Seiter. “Anyone interested in renting an office?”
Frank D’Angelo, who owns Emporium True Value Hardware, said he viewed the burden placed on businesses to provide affordable housing ironic, as it was the gentrification of Sag Harbor in residential neighborhoods that made it an unaffordable place to live.
Ferraris noted the village is going to restrict the conversion of multi-family homes and in the future will require homeowners looking to build or expand their residences over a certain square footage pay into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.
D’Angelo said he hopes he will not hear the echo of “not in my backyard” when the first affordable housing project commences in Sag Harbor.
A superstore is now described as being 10,000 square feet, said Ferraris, although at the meeting Save Sag Harbor’s Susan Mead expressed concern formula businesses would still find their way into Sag Harbor regardless of the code.
Convenience stores are proposed as legal when accessory to a gas station, but Mia Grosjean expressed concern that could mean a 24-hour business in residential neighborhoods. The board cannot legally limit hours of operation, and said they would consider changing or revising this part of the code.
Above: Sag Harbor Village Planner Rich Warren and Village Attorney Anthony Tohill at the Sag Harbor Board of Trustee’s code work session on Monday, August 4. Second photo: A crowd of about 100 gathered in the Municipal Building to debate the draft code. Third photo: Jane Holden expresses concerns with aspects of the code that prevented Town & Country, the real estate company she works for, from moving into a Main Street, Sag Harbor retail location. Bottom photo: Frank D’Angelo, owner of Emporium True Value Hardware, talks about affordable housing.Â