LT Burger, on Main Street in Sag Harbor, is zoned for just 56 seats. However, last week attorney Brian DeSesa approached the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in an effort to increase that number to 77—a figure closer to what the restaurant can reasonably house, he said, and needs to be a viable business.
On Tuesday, September 17, the ZBA heard DeSesa’s arguments as a part of an application seeking a variance from the village’s parking requirements to allow for the additional seating. DeSesa had already earned a parking variance for the building, located at 62 Main Street, in order to change the use of an existing second and third floor apartment to office space.
According to DeSesa, in order to add 21 seats in the restaurant and taking into account the building’s existing parking credits, the ZBA would need to grant a variance for seven parking spaces. DeSesa argued if the ZBA granted the additional seating, the restaurant would still be far below what it is allowed under state fire code guidelines.
Until 2009, Sag Harbor Village allowed commercial property owners the ability to pay into a parking fund when seeking a variance for parking in front of the ZBA. The applicant still had to show the ZBA the additional seating would not have a detrimental affect on the community, but if approved was able to pay into a parking fund, which the village was supposed to use to create more parking in Sag Harbor.
However, in 2009, with the fund was abandoned during a village zoning code revision, as there were few ways to create more parking in the village.
DeSesa said last Tuesday that a number of restaurants in Sag Harbor are interested in expanding seating closer to the state fire code regulations.
“I would hesitate to allow additional seating,” said ZBA chairman Anton Hagen. “We have eliminated the parking fund so there really isn’t any mechanism for increasing parking in Sag Harbor. All of the restaurants are dealing with a limited amount of parking.”
Hagen said he was concerned about the precedent it would set to allow LT Burger the right to expand seating.
DeSesa countered that in LT Burger’s case, the expansion would still put the restaurant at less than half of the seating allowed under the state fire code.
“If you find more parking in the village I would love to know where,” said board member Brendan Skislock. “I was five minutes late to this meeting looking for parking.”
Board member Tim McGuire added that the community at large is engaged in a discussion about how busy Sag Harbor has become.
“It could be argued that it is a detriment to the community to allow restaurants to get bigger,” said McGuire.
“We are not looking to expand the footprint or outside — we are looking to expand in the existing square footage inside,” said DeSesa.
Hagen said he would welcome more information about restaurant seating throughout Sag Harbor at the October 15 meeting, when the application will be brought before the board again.
In other ZBA news, the board also tabled an application by Sloan Schaffer at 48 Madison Street, the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church property, for a swimming pool, spa and deck. In order to construct the improvements, which attorney Dennis Downes said would be screened from the street and neighboring properties by landscaping, Schaffer needs a variance to increase total coverage from 25.3 percent to 30.1 percent where 25 percent is allowed under the code. The pool is proposed at 25 feet by 15 feet, closer to a lap pool in size, said Downes.
Downes said it is the only aspect of Schaffer’s plans to restore the church and convert it into his single family residence that requires a variance. Schaffer, said Downes, is sparing no expense in the restoration of the building, which he said would cost several million dollars.
“Since this is kind of a major change for this building, I would like to hear what the community has to say about it,” said Hagen.
Neighbor Fred Meyer, who lives on Union Street in a house built in the 1700s, said the boundary line of the Schaffer property is practically against his foundation. Meyer wanted to ensure, if necessary for his home’s maintenance, he could have access to that section of the Schaffer property, and asked if the addition of a pool would impact drainage.
Bruce Adler, a mortgage holder in his aunt’s house also adjacent to the Schaffer property, questioned the impact of sewage disposal and noted a majority of the plan involves the decking, not the pool.
“I think before the board acts on this, it would be worthwhile to see what the owner has in mind in terms of landscaping and fencing,” said Adler.
Hagen said he would like to see elevations before he would be comfortable moving forward.