By Kathryn G. Menu
When the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals approved the addition of 21 seats at LT Burger this fall, exempting the restaurant from having to fulfill parking requirements in the village code tied to seating, members knew it would likely result in a glut of applications by other eateries.
On Tuesday night, board members attempted to stave off that flood of requests, suggesting Bay Partners LLC, the company that owns the Tutto il Giorno property, should approach the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees rather than the ZBA in its quest to gain 21 additional outdoor seats at the Italian restaurant on Bay Street.
In order to legally add 21 seats at Tutto il Giorno, Bay Partners would need to either provide seven new parking spaces or earn a variance from the ZBA. Until 2009, the village allowed commercial property owners to pay into a parking fund when coming before the ZBA to seek a variance for parking. The applicant still had to show the ZBA the additional seating would not have a detrimental affect on the community, but if approved, it would be able to pay into a village fund earmarked to create more parking.
However, in 2009, the fund was abandoned during a village zoning code revision, as there were few ways to create more parking in the village.
On Tuesday, Tutto il Giorno manager Rachel Luria argued the restaurant has the space for the seating in its outdoor dining area, that outdoor dining is largely shielded from Bay Street by landscaping and that the restaurant is surrounded by daytime businesses not open during the busiest dining hours.
“You have every right to be before this board, but my question is are you in the right place,” said village attorney Fred Thiele, Jr. Thiele noted the argument being made by Luria is one that would be made by any restaurant in Sag Harbor, which is if the village looked at other benchmarks outside of parking—like the fire code or wastewater treatment availability—more seats could be easily achieved.
Mr. Thiele suggested what restaurant owners may be looking for is a change in the village code—a legislative decision that can only be made by the village board.
The village has discussed changing seating and parking restrictions for restaurants, although that conversation was largely tabled last year after building inspector Tim Platt noted if all restaurants were allowed to use the fire code as the basis for seating, the village would need upwards of 300 new parking spaces.
“I think, in my opinion, if we were to grant a variance it would have to be for something very unique to this restaurant that differentiates it from all, if not most, of the restaurants in the village,” said board member Tim McGuire.
The application was tabled until the board’s March 18 meeting.