On Tuesday night, attorney Dennis Downes secured preliminary approval from the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to allow Provisions Natural Foods Market & Organic Café on Main Street to expand. That expansion would allow the store to grow beyond what the village code permits without a market research study or compliance with affordable housing provisions suggested in the code.
Earlier this summer, Rich Kresberg, owner of Provisions, petitioned the Sag Harbor Planning Board to allow the organic grocery side of his business to expand into the adjacent space on Bay Street vacated by the former Style Bar.
That board allowed Kresberg to expand, but not into the full 700 square feet of space the Style Bar encompassed. That’s because the expansion would have made Provisions larger than 3,000 square feet. Under the 2009 village code, that’s the point at which the rule is triggered requiring the business to conduct a market study and provide some kind of affordable housing relief.
The village implemented this requirement for larger stores in an effort to maintain a diversity of uses on Main and Bay streets in Sag Harbor.
The planning board allowed Provisions instead to create a walled-off 200 square foot closet space in order to keep the store under the 3,000 square feet limit.
However, last month Downes argued the ZBA has the legal right to override any special exception provisions under the village code. If the board chose to override these standards, Kresberg would be able to add the total 777 square feet of Style Bar space to Provisions grocery store, and avoid creating the 200 square foot closet.
On Tuesday night, village attorney Denise Schoen agreed after studying case law.
Downes has argued that a market study would cost Provisions upwards of $10,000 and that it is impossible for them to offer an affordable housing concession as they do not own the building.
He added that as a grocer, Provisions will see increased competition locally from the Wild By Nature organic grocery store chain looking to open locations in East Hampton and Southampton.
Schoen said the board could protect the village from having other applicants petition for the same kind of code relief if they made it specific to the Provisions space.
Board member Anton Hagen agreed.
“We can word this as such that we can defend it to another application,” he said.
Downes noted the legal allowance of the ZBA having the right to overrule these kinds of standards within the code would stand, despite the planning board having jurisdiction over special exception standards that allow for this kind of expansion.
Schoen added the board would specifically note this expansion was included in an existing building and was not an allowance being given to an applicant requesting relief from the code to build a brand new structure.
“As Dennis said, this would be dead space anyway,” said Schoen of the small amount of additional square footage the board was allowing Provisions to use as a result of their approval.
A formal decision will be levied at the board’s October 16 meeting.