By Kathryn G. Menu
A group of residents from the Garden, Spring and Howard streets in Sag Harbor approached both the village’s harbor committee and the board of trustees this week. Their goals was to convince those boards to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with flooding in their neighborhood.
The neighbors also called on the village board to do what it can to ensure the village further reviews the expansion of William Egan’s home on Garden Street.
For years, neighbors have argued the expansion of the Egan home will require him to re-grade his property to accommodate an above ground septic system. This, they say, will exacerbate flooding in a neighborhood that contended with three feet of flood waters in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy this past fall.
On Tuesday night, resident Angela Scott, along with neighbors and celebrated documentary filmmakers DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, approached the village board on behalf of a number of residents.
“Our mantra is are we making this worse, or are we making it better,” said Scott.
Pennebaker and Hegedus, like a number of residents, said in the wake of Sandy they were left with a car that no longer worked and a heating system that had to be replaced after being drowned under three feet of water.
Scott noted before the creation of West Water Street in the 1960s, the neighborhood was able to naturally drain through wetland systems. She called on the village to implement a comprehensive review of drainage in the neighborhood to ascertain whether a better drainage system could be created.
Scott also asked the village commit to preventing future development in the neighborhood when it could prove detrimental to neighboring properties.
She wondered, too, how wetlands on a private property could be formally designated and whether the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) could be harnessed to buy wetlands on a private property.
According to a report drafted by environmentalist Larry Penny, he believes a pond-like area in the rear of the Egan property is a wetlands, although it has not been formally categorized as such.
Under CPF guidelines, wetlands can be purchased, but only if the seller is a willing seller. The property must also be on one of the five East End town’s priority lists. Villages within the towns, like Sag Harbor, can request parcels in their jurisdiction be added to that list, provided there is a willing seller.
Mayor Brian Gilbride noted there is a pump system on West Water Street in place, but that during the storm electricity was knocked out and the pumps were only revived with the help of the Sag Harbor Village Fire Department, who worked with the Department of Public Works to hook the pumps up to generators.
“I think they estimated they pumped like eight million gallons of water,” said Gilbride.
Scott also asked about the standards the zoning board of appeals must adhere to and whether the detriment to the community should be considered.
Last month, the ZBA approved — 3-2 — Egan’s request for a variance for steps up to a proposed raised house on his property. The variance is needed to accomplish a four-bedroom addition that involves raising the house to comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood regulations.
Because of the addition, an above ground septic system is required by the health department and Egan will have to change the topography on this property to accommodate that system.
Scott noted village attorney Denise Schoen advised the board to only consider the steps in the application, not its total impact. She also called for a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of the project.
On Tuesday night, village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said he would reach out to the ZBA attorney and read the minutes in order to inform himself on the case.
Egan’s attorney, Dennis Downes, agreed it was the creation of West Water Street that exacerbated flooding in the neighborhood, but said he has studies that have declared the pond in Egan’s backyard is not a wetland.
However, he said this area should be improved in terms of drainage and that Egan himself was looking into how that could be accomplished.
“The neighborhood is very fragile because the groundwater level is just so high there,” said Hegedus, who also called for a comprehensive strategy to deal with drainage in the neighborhood — a concept Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait strongly supported at that board’s meeting on Monday.
“I would like this to become an ongoing discussion about stormwater runoff and drainage in the village,” said Tait.