By Kathryn G. Menu
After more than three years in front of the East Hampton Town Planning Board, when attorney Jon Tarbet finally gained board approval for his client, David Reiner, to re-develop the aging Sag Harbor Cottages on Route 114, it was a somewhat anti-climatic moment.
“There were so many misdirections put in front of us, at times it felt like we would never get out of the morass,” said Tarbet on Wednesday. “But it is kind of anticlimactic, because we have known for three months now that we would get approved.”
On Wednesday, January 19 the planning board approved Reiner’s proposal to re-develop the motel, which while in a residential district can be reconstructed as a legally, pre-existing non-conforming motel. Situated on a six-acre parcel, the property is otherwise surrounded by state and county preserves and is located in a Harbor Protection Overlay District.
The new motel, set back from Route 114 is proposed to be screened from view with native trees and shrubs and will include 12 cottages, two storage buildings, one office, a pool and cabana area, a pool house and an open air pavilion.
As a condition of approval, Reiner must provide the town with a scenic easement, establishing a 200-foot wide buffer, beginning at the northern property edge and running southward along wetlands areas. In addition, Reiner must also give the town a conservation easement, establishing a 50-foot wide buffer along a scenic easement boundary.
If the property reverts from a commercial use to a residential use, the town has agreed to abandon the conservation easement.
This approval comes after the last year of review, which included several criticisms by planning board members as well as the environmental group The East Hampton Conservators, who questioned the amount of clearing proposed on what they called a “unique and environmentally sensitive parcel.”
In addition to being in the Harbor Overlay Protection District, the parcel is located in the South Fork Pine Barrens and Suffolk County Pine Barrens and is in a South Fork Special Groundwater Protection area.
While Reiner’s application includes an extensive re-vegetation plan on parts of the property that are already cleared, it also calls for clearing in a portion of the property once described by the East Hampton Town Planning Department as being “the only White Pine forest on Long Island.”
During an October planning board meeting, town planner Eric Schantz said that the parcel does contain a white pine-dominated forest unique to pine barren habitats on Long Island. However, Schantz added that while it is likely many individual white pines will be removed as a result of the project, it cannot be said the proposal will result in significant clearing of the white pine dominated portions of the property.
Additionally, no new clearing will occur within 280-feet of the freshwater wetland boundary, where the code only prohibits clearing within 150-feet of the wetlands. The re-vegetation plan will cover over an acre, reducing the amount of clearing on the parcel by 10,000 square feet.
During the review, some board members also questioned whether this was the expansion of a pre-existing, non-conforming use, but were told by two building inspectors and a handful of town attorneys that was not in fact the case.
Reiner’s application does not require any variances from the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, although Tarbet noted the application stills needs approval from the town’s architectural review board (ARB), as well as the Suffolk County Health Department and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), which will review a proposed curb cut into the new development.
From initial discussions, however, Tarbet said he does not see too many bumps in the road in gaining those approvals. Next week, he said, he plans to sit down with Reiner and tackle any outstanding issues. Tarbet said he was unsure when Reiner hoped to begin construction.
“At different times during the course of the last three years, he has been eager to get going, but I am not sure he has a set date in mind at this point,” said Tarbet.