By Kathryn G. Menu
A long dormant plan to create a waterfront park next to what is now the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge was revived in October, and on Monday residents and the non-profit Save Sag Harbor came out in support of the venture.
The proposal, which dates back to the 1996, is based on plans created by award-winning landscape architect Edmund Hollander. The heavily landscaped park area, with walkways and benches, would also include two docks. Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait has revived interest in the project and earned approval from the Sag Harbor Village Board late last year to pursue the public’s opinion on what residents would like to see formally planned as a part of the park.
And on Monday, at least, there were no objections to what is already proposed in the original Hollander plan.
During a public hearing on the park plan during Monday night’s Harbor Committee meeting, Mr. Tait noted that in addition to providing much needed public parkland, and access to one of the village’s most precious views—Sag Harbor Cove from the bridge—the park could also fill a need for dock space for smaller boats.
The docks, as proposed, would not offer any electrical service because they would cater to boat owners looking for smaller slips rather than those serving larger boats, whose owners often spend the night.
“We have determined that as the harbor changes, as the demands of economy and market forces change the configuration of the harbor, many marinas are moving toward larger slips,” said Mr. Tait.
“While private marinas are moving toward what is best for them, and they should, I think the village should look out for the needs of its residents as well,” he added.
The addition of the park would also help complete part of a waterfront walkway, said Mr. Tait, that he would like to see traverse downtown Sag Harbor. The park would connect to a walkway that currently stretches under the bridge and continues onto Windmill Beach.
“First of all, do we have legal access?” asked committee member Jeff Peters.
“I believe the answer is yes, but that may not be up for us to determine,” said Mr. Tait.
The concern, and impetus for legal questions, is a neighboring parcel, which is owned by East End Ventures, a development firm that has long sought unsuccessfully to construct luxury condominiums there.
Years after lawsuits were filed—and dismissed—against the village by East End Ventures, last July developers announced they were reviving the condominium plan, and would add 2 West Water Street, which is owned by 1-800-LAWYER owner Bruce Davis, into the mix.
Since that announcement, a complete set of plans has yet to be filed with the village Building Department.
On Monday night, village attorney Denise Schoen said the park was accessible by other means than the East End Ventures property. As for the docks, Ms. Schoen said she would need to explore those plans more closely to determine whether they were on village property.
“It’s a draft,” said Mr. Tait of the park plan. “It can be fine-tuned.”
“We are having a board meeting this Saturday, but we have taken a straw vote and the board is unanimous in backing you on this project,” said Save Sag Harbor President Mia Grosjean.
Noting that Mr. Tait has already explored the possibility of state grants to fund the project, but is also looking for private funding, Ms. Grosjean asked for estimates on what the park could cost.
“I don’t anticipate it being very expensive,” said Mr. Tait, who said he was reluctant to provide an estimate until he had firm conversations with dock builders about the project. “It is a very small parcel. We are talking about pathways, plantings and benches. We are looking for a very natural park area.”
“I think it is a wonderful idea,” said resident Valerie Justin. “I think it is essential. The cove is seen by so few people and if this is lost, the view of the cove is gone for most people.”
Ms. Justin said she would like to see a full waterfront walkway plan for the village unveiled, but Mr. Tait said while he has hopes that vision will be realized in the future, at this point he wants to focus on this one piece.
Southampton attorney Timothy S. McCully, representing East End Ventures, also appeared at the hearing and said he was expecting to soon file an application with the village Zoning Board of Appeals on behalf of his clients. Mr. McCully said as a part of the application, East End Ventures planned to offer its own walkway to the beach.
Mr. Tait ended the conversation by stating he would like to keep a public hearing on the waterfront park open until he can present the public with more concrete plans. In order to qualify for a state grant, those plans would need to be approved by the village board before August.
The Harbor Committee will host a work session on Friday, May 9, at 10 a.m. with its regular May meeting scheduled for Monday, May 12, at 5 p.m.