Questions Raised Over Harbor Heights Project

Posted on 05 January 2011

By Kathryn G. Menu

John Leonard’s plans for a new Harbor Heights Gas Station was met with interest by members of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board last week, but a number of outstanding questions remain before the project can be formally reviewed by village boards.

On Tuesday, December 28, Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes gave the planning board its first glimpse at the proposed project, which aims to demolish the existing 1,874 square foot gas station on Route 114 and replace it with a new 1,842 square foot building. Within the gas station, Leonard proposes a 600 square-foot “country market.” The project would also expand the Sag Harbor Service Station, a business owned by Gregory Miller, from 1,245 square feet to 1,595 square feet.

The architecture, by James Laspesa, resembles a home rather than a gas station, said Downes, and will incorporate landscaping into a now shrub-free parcel.

The project will also create a safer entry and exit to the station through a New York State Department of Transportation approved curb cut, said Downes, giving the gas station a formal entry and exit for the first time in its existence.

Gas pumps would be moved off the street to the north side of the property and covered with a standard gas station canopy. If approved the station would have six pumps, as opposed to its current four, however, Downes noted one of the new pumps would take the place of an above ground diesel fuel tank.

One issue that has already arisen is the addition of the canopy. Currently, the station doesn’t have one — meaning attendant Pam Kern must brave the elements to do her job on days of inclement weather.

Downes said Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt has decided to treat the canopy as an accessory structure, while Downes said it is a part of the principal, gas station use.

The canopy, in part, he added, is also designed to allow self-service at the station and Downes said he would request another opinion from Platt.
The project will need a number of variances from the village zoning board of appeals, including one to keep its setback from New York State 114, also known as Hampton Road. Downes will also ask the zoning board if egress to the bathroom, which is through the convenience store, should be included in gross floor area calculations. If so, the market is just slightly larger than the 600 square feet the village code allows.

The village code also limits the height of a convenience store to a maximum of 20 feet, whereas Laspesa’s drawings show the building 25.5 feet in height.
“The problem with this is it makes the building look squat,” said Downes of the 20 foot height.

Once he receives Platt’s determinations, Downes said he will ask for permission to go to the village’s historic preservation and architectural review boards before he comes back to the planning board.

Board member Greg Ferraris noted the gas station use is permitted and pre-existing, and under the new code is allowed to have accessory uses for a repair shop and convenience store.

“Basically we put that in with parameters that ensured this was the only place that could happen,” said Ferraris.

“It’s interesting from a planning perspective because I think it would relieve some of the attention downtown because there would be less people trying to get into the 7-Eleven parking lot,” said board member Neil Slevin.

“This is an essential service building,” added board member Larry Perrine. “There are only two gas stations in the village and both are in appropriate places, exiting the village without too much of an impact on residential neighborhoods.”

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