Protecting Natural Resources

Posted on 17 July 2008

If adopted by the Sag Harbor Board of Trustee’s the newly proposed zoning code will give the village’s harbor committee teeth it has never had before when it comes to the protection of natural resources like wetlands, tidal waters, beaches, vegetation, dunes and bluffs.

During a harbor committee meeting on Monday, July 14, village environmental consultant Richard Warren walked the board through a synopsis of some of the bigger changes proposed in the new code. While concerns in village hall over the last three months have focused on the effect of the code on Main Street, harbor committee chairman Bruce Tait’s concerns lie solely with the waterfront, which his board is charged with protecting.

Warren explained that the waterfront and marine districts had been merged, and at this point just a few properties have been moved in and out of the waterfront district, including a small parcel next to Bruce Davis’s house that currently belongs to Christie Brinkley. He added the reason the parcel was taken out of the waterfront district and placed into the office district was its small size, which made more sense for office rather than waterfront development.

One personal suggestion Tait made about the code, which Warren seemed to agree with, was differentiating between a boat dealer and a yacht brokerage, which Tait noted are far different uses. Warren seemed amenable to allowing a yacht brokerage as a permitted use in the office district, while keeping a boat dealer in a special exception category, which requires a permit.

“I have been watching this and paying attention,” said Tait of the code process. “I think the evolution has been a good example of public input … my position as I have been watching this is I did not want to see drastic shrinkage of the waterfront.”

Tait agreed that was not what was occurring.

Sag Harbor resident Cam Gleason wondered if Haven’s Beach should be kept in a residential area of the village, for fear a developer could snatch it up should the village ever sell the parkland.

“My guess is there would be about 1,500 more of you if someone tried to sell that,” said Warren. “They would have the tar pot boiling.”

Gleason also asked about the effect of the code on 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road — a proposed condo development on the waterfront next to the Graphic Arts Building on Long Island Avenue. Warren explained the parcel is proposed to be in the office district, which does have size and density limits.

Warren also noted it is a new chapter of the code, expected to be discussed at the August 11 meeting, which will truly expand the powers of the committee in its role as steward of natural resources. While the board has yet to comment on this chapter as they are currently reviewing it, the section outlines acceptable development and activities around wetlands, tidal waters, beaches, vegetation, dunes and bluffs.

Under the code, harbor committee approval will be required to fill near or in any wetlands, water or beach. Harbor committee approval is needed to clear or dredge, to construct homes, docks, accessory structures or bulkheads, or to have any septic systems, waste or storage system within 200-feet of wetlands, water or beach. No buildings or structures are allowed within 100-feet of a crest of a bluff.

Until this new code, the committee has been able to ask that a wetlands buffer of a minimum 25-feet be maintained, although generally they have allowed 25-feet to be the standard. In the proposed code, wetlands setbacks have been beefed up significantly. Any wastewater disposal system needs to have a 100-foot setback and the construction of all other structures would need a 75-foot setback. Lawns, turf and landscaping, as well as clearing or fertilization of vegetation must take place 50-feet from wetland areas.

Parcels in the waterfront district, or marinas do not have to comply with the setbacks as long as they have obtained site plan approval. 

 Above: Harbor committee member George Pharaoh, chairman Bruce Tait and member Jeff Peters concentrate on Sag Harbor’s new natural resources code. (k menu photo)

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