Would the expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station, including the addition of a convenience store, increase traffic on Route 114 in Sag Harbor to the point where it would have a negative impact on traffic flow on a road surrounded by residential neighborhoods?
According to Charles Olivio, a traffic engineer with Stonefield Engineering and Design, while the redevelopment of John Leonard’s service station will increase traffic, based on industry standards that increase will not be large enough to result in a significant adverse impact.
Olivio, a consultant hired by Leonard, presented his findings at a November 22 meeting of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board. The planning board is in the throes of reviewing Leonard’s application for site plan approval and a special exception permit to allow him to redevelop the Harbor Heights property. Included in that re-development is the inclusion of a convenience store on the property, as well a new layout for the gas pump islands, and new curb cuts to make the station safer to enter and exit.
During the planning board meeting, Olivio said he came to his conclusion after conducting an investigation into the existing traffic patterns at the gas station during peak morning and evening hours of September 16.
Olivio said based on the existing traffic at the gas station, it appears people are using Harbor Heights on their way to, or on their way home from work or another destination. Based on that, Olivio said the convenience store would likely draw in existing traffic, not create new traffic where people are making a special trip just to use the market.
“We would have an expectation of some modest increases in demand with a new site being brought up to standard with added fueling positions and the store,” he said.
According to Olivio’s report, on a weekday morning, about 27 cars enter or exit the site during rush hour. That number increases to 55 when the summer season is factored into the equation. During evening peak hours, about 44 cars enter or exit the gas station, the figure increasing to 89 in season.
If the property is redeveloped, based on industry standards, Olivio said during morning rush hour — not in season — the station could see about 81 cars exit or enter the property. In the evening, that would jump to 110. The increase of cars coming in or out of Harbor Heights in the morning would be about 54, he said, and in the evening the station could see an increase of about 66 vehicles entering or leaving the property.
However, Olivio notes that this would not be new traffic on Route 114, but rather the store drawing in more of the existing traffic. Of the additional trips expected at Harbor Heights, only 10 in the morning and 15 in the evening would be vehicles new to the roadway, according to Olivio’s report.
Based on the industry standards, the numbers are almost 50 percent lower than the threshold for what would require a more extensive analysis of traffic impacts related to the Harbor Heights project, said Olivio.
During holiday weekends, Olivio added, the station would expect an increase in traffic.
“But you don’t create a parking field at a mall fitting for Black Friday or Christmas,” he said.
Village attorney Denise Schoen said she would like to see an analysis of what the traffic impact would be if the Harbor Heights property were redeveloped as is — without the convenience store.
Board member Greg Ferraris agreed.
“It would be to your benefit to show that there would not be an increase in traffic as a result of the convenience store,” he said.
While Olivio said that data was in his report, the table only shows the increase in vehicle traffic if both the gas station and market are developed.
The planning board also continues to grapple with the proposed size of Leonard’s store. While the village’s zoning code was rewritten to allow convenience stores as an accessory use to a gas station, it required that the convenience store only be 600-square-feet or less. Leonard’s is a 1,000 square-foot store.
Outside of the 1,000 square-foot store, the structure would also include a restroom, a stairway down to the cellar, a utility closet with a sink and an area for the gasoline attendant.
In addition to planning board approval on this issue, one of the several variances Leonard needs to move forward with his plans addresses whether or not he can increase the size of the store.
Board member Larry Perrine said he was unaware that some parts of the structure were not being included in the calculation of the store’s square-footage.
Leonard’s attorney, Dennis Downes, said this was one of the reasons this aspect of the application is before the zoning board of appeals.
“One of the concerns inside the community we are hearing — that will eventually show itself when we have a public hearing — is the scale of the convenience store and the potential intensity of the use and its affect on the community,” said Perrine.
He wondered how the zoning board would review that.
Schoen explained the planning and zoning boards will have their own standards they will have to follow, but within those standards the impact to the neighborhood would be explored.
The environmental review of the project by the planning board, added Schoen “will force you to look at some of the critical areas, like the impact to the neighborhood.”