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Village Continues to Weigh Impact of Harbor Heights Expansion

Posted on 26 April 2012

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The Sag Harbor Village Planning Board has not yet decided whether a proposal to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 has the potential to cause a significant environmental impact. So on Tuesday night, the board asked developers to provide more information. Specifically, they’d like to see more detail in terms of traffic, noise and the impact the project could have on the character of the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Owner John Leonard has proposed to demolish the existing Harbor Heights building and construct a new gas station and convenience store on the property. He is also proposing to slightly expand the adjoining Sag Harbor Service Station and move gas pump islands further into the property.

While the project has had support, it has also been met with opposition by some neighbors as well as the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor. That group recently hired East Hampton attorney Jeff Bragman to represent them while the planning and zoning boards review’s Leonard’s application.

Before the zoning board of appeals can weigh in on a number of variances needed for Leonard to move forward — most importantly deciding whether or not he should be able to construct a convenience store several hundred square-feet larger than what is allowed under the village code — the planning board must determine if the project should be subject to comprehensive environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

On Tuesday night, the planning board continued that debate, with Bragman seated in the audience taking notes.

Leonard’s engineer, Chris Tartaglia, presented a new landscape plan that doubles the number of white pines Leonard proposes to plant around the perimeter of the property. Tartaglia said Leonard has also agreed to eliminate a number of perimeter lights and presented a noise study that he said showed once the Sag Harbor Service Station is able to move much of its work indoors, as proposed, noise levels will be reduced.

Tartaglia added that any new noise generated from people using the store or gas station at extended hours falls below a decibel level the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) deems “an adverse noise impact.”

Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren said he would also like to see a study that addresses the potential noise impact when considering the ambient noise levels of the residential neighborhood. As the project moves the station further onto the property and towards houses, that should be assessed, said Warren.

In terms of other impacts, board member Gregory Ferraris said he would like to see details presented on a drainage trench meant to catch stormwater runoff, but also oil in the event of a spill, in order to ensure Havens Beach would be protected if such an event occurred.

Board chairman Neil Slevin said he would like the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board (ARB) to weigh in on the impact the project could have on the character of the neighborhood and aesthetic resources. He noted that resident Elinor Spalten had sent in photographs of a similar station and store in Georgia and that the images had an impact he would like the ARB to discuss.

While a traffic report states that the project is expected to increase car trips to the property by 10 cars in the morning and 15 in the evening hours, Slevin questioned whether or not traffic would increase more because of the addition of the store.

“I don’t think people will come from somewhere else just to go to the convenience store,” said board member Jack Tagliasachhi.

“I think we would be kidding ourselves to think there would be no increase in traffic as a result of this project,” said Ferraris.

Tartaglia’s study, said Warren, states that only three additional cars would come to the improved station if it includes a store. Warren said the board could ask for a study based on local stations rather than the industry standard.

The next Sag Harbor Village Planning Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 22 at 5 :30 p.m.

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