By Kathryn G. Menu
Sag Harbor Village Trustees are looking at over 30 amendments to the village zoning code, including whether or not to create a mechanism to allow restaurants to expand seating and reducing the required office size in the office district. Trustees are also looking at changes in the code that would give the Harbor Committee clearer standards when looking at wetlands setbacks and buffers.
On Friday, December 6 the village board met to discuss 32 amendments to the zoning code. At least one revision, championed by trustee Ken O’Donnell, was expected to be introduced at Wednesday’s village board meeting. That code change requires a project limiting fence, mesh and straw bales for any construction that requires clearing or grading of land. A public hearing will be held on that legislation during the board’s Tuesday, January 14 meeting.
On Friday, a majority of the changes came with little debate, primarily bringing the village code up to state standards or making minor language changes recommended by building inspector Tim Platt.
One change contemplated by the board that it chose to table Friday was an amendment allowing the minimum gross floor area of an office in the office district to be 600 square feet, compared to 800 square feet in the existing code.
“To me this is a significant change,” said trustee Ed Deyermond, noting it would be a 20 percent reduction in the minimum size of offices.
“What ramifications does this have going forward,” asked Mayor Brian Gilbride.
Trustee Robby Stein noted that the change would only apply to second floor office spaces within the office district. He said he believed four office spaces would become eligible if this code change was adopted.
Deyermond asked the board have a clearer picture of the impact before moving forward.
The board is also considering changing the code for wetland setbacks required by the Harbor Committee, specifically only allowing the committee to reduce setbacks for undersized lots in the village for principal structure improvements, not for accessory structures like decks, patios, or pools.
“The Harbor Committee feels it is being used and abused,” noted Schoen.
Currently, the committee is allowed to let owners of undersized lots proposed a setback up to 50 percent of the requirement laid out in the code. However, noted Schoen, homeowners are coming in acting as if that 50 percent reduction is as of right, then applying to the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) for even more relief from the code.
“We as a village and the local boards need to take an active role in regulating wetlands setbacks,” noted Schoen. “ And we need to give these boards the protection they need to say no.”
Both Schoen and village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said they wanted to review that code change more closely before recommending the board take action.
“I think the concept is good,” added Thiele.
The board also tabled a discussion on seating and parking restrictions for restaurants. While the board briefly entertained the idea of allowing restaurants to have seating equal to its fire code, Platt said he did not believe it was realistic given the parking restraints in the village.
“It would be a tremendous parking issue,” he said. “On the flip side, on a Friday night the village parking is maxed out anyway.”
The board has also considered an amendment that would change parking requirements to one space per four permanent seats, bar seats or stools — as opposed to three in the current code — plus one per each employee.
Deyermond said he would like to see examples of what is currently allowed, what kind of tickets were issued to restaurants for exceeding its seating and what the fire code would allow.
Gilbride added any change would also impact other fees, including the amount of money restaurants have to pay into the wastewater treatment facility.
Schoen cautioned the board that the ZBA has already granted its first variance since the parking fund was eliminated to allow LT Burger to increase its seating and that other applications were likely soon to follow.
“We should have a separate meeting for this one thing,” said Thiele.