By the time the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board finishes its September 25 meeting, John Leonard will likely know if his proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station has the potential to cause a significant environmental impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
If Tuesday night’s planning board meeting was any indication, it appears the board is leaning in Leonard’s favor and will give the project a negative declaration in its State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). That would mean the project could move on to the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which must rule on a number of variances required for the project to move forward in its current form. Those variances include the size of a proposed convenience store, which at 1,000-square-feet is 400 square-feet more than what is allowed under the village code.
The Sag Harbor Planning Board will still have to complete its site plan review of the project after the ZBA makes its ruling.
Over a year ago, station owner John Leonard proposed redeveloping the property on Route 114 by demolishing the existing, blue gas station building and putting in a new building, which would host a convenience store. A new layout for gas pump islands, more pumps and new curb cuts to make the station safer to enter and exit are proposed in Leonard’s plans, as is new landscaping, lighting and parking configuration.
For months, the village’s planning board has been gathering information on potential environmental impacts the project could pose. At the same time a group of neighbors and the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor have questioned the size of the development project.
On Tuesday night, it appeared the Sag Harbor Planning Board had gathered the last information it would need to assess Leonard’s plans from an environmental perspective, including a rendering showing what the project would look like from the street, more information on traffic, refuse control, petroleum spill mitigation, sanitary calculations and lighting.
At issue in the board’s assessment of traffic are conflicting traffic analyses — one from Leonard’s team at Stonefield Engineering and one submitted by neighbors opposing the project who contracted a traffic analysis from the Texas-based DeShazo Group. While Stonefield’s report showed a minimal increase in new traffic, the DeShazo Group report showed a far higher increase in traffic.
According to Tammy Cunha, an engineer with P.W. Grosser, the village’s engineering consultant, the difference between the two reports is that while Stonefield assessed traffic on the Harbor Heights property as traffic associated with a gas station that has a small store, DeShazo used estimates for the addition of a convenience store as a primary use with gas pumps as an accessory function of the business.
“The DeShazo report is not using the proper classification code,” she said. “No matter how we run the numbers it falls below the 100 car increase needed to make this an environmental impact situation.”
Noting there is a 7-Eleven in Sag Harbor Village, Cunha said she believes, as Stonefield suggests, passerby traffic is the type that will be coming into Harbor Heights if it is redeveloped, rather than it becoming a destination for drivers.
According to Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, the lighting plan has also been drastically reduced on the project to a minimal level of lighting. One light per service bay is planned as are the use of LED lights, which gives the station control over lighting levels. All lighting is Dark Skies compliant, added Warren, and the light spread will actually be smaller if the project moves forward than the lighting on the property is now.
“One of the senses of the community, what the community doesn’t want, is what you see on Route 27 – bright green, bright orange, bright yellow plastic signs to attract attention,” said board member Larry Perrine. “I think by reducing the lighting and not presenting signs of that kind, I think they have accomplished a lot to make it not like that and make it something much softer, which is a good thing.”
The board is expected to straw poll whether or not to give the project a negative declaration on September 25. Leonard hopes to be before the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals in November.