By Kathryn G. Menu
The Sag Harbor Village Planning Board is being asked to decide whether or not a proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 has the potential to cause a significant adverse environmental impact. However, the board is being asked to do so while still unsure if the village’s zoning board of appeals will grant applicant John Leonard the right to build a store within the station almost double the size of what village code allows. This is one of the biggest bones of contention for neighboring property owners who have opposed the project.
Leonard has proposed a full re-development of the Harbor Heights property, including the addition of 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. A second business that operates on the parcel — the Sag Harbor Service Station — will also be slightly expanded under the plan to allow for a small office and bathroom.
New landscaping, lighting and a new parking configuration are also proposed.
The project is listed as a type one action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), meaning the planning board must determine if the proposal has the potential to have a significant adverse environmental impact on a number of fronts including traffic, aesthetic resources, noise and the character of the neighborhood, to name just a few.
This determination is the first step the planning board must take before it can begin to look at the proposal in general terms. However, one of the most debated issues — the size of the convenience store — is something the planning board will have to review from an environmental perspective without knowing if the zoning board will even allow it to be built as proposed.
The convenience store will be located in a building with a gross floor area of 1,619 as defined by the village code, according to a memorandum prepared by Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren. However, the sales area within the store, excluding spaces such as bulk storage in a walk-in cooler, an attendant area, utility closet, stairwell and ADA-accessible bathroom is calculated in Leonard’s plans as being 1,000 square-feet.
The village code allows service stations to have accessory convenience stores, however, it prohibits them from being larger than 600 square-feet in gross floor area, which Leonard has contended is too small to financially support the project.
As such, in addition to a number of other variances the zoning board must approve for Leonard’s plans to move forward, he must also gain a variance to legalize the size of the store. However, the zoning board is prohibited from taking any action until the planning board has ruled on the proposal’s environmental impact.
On Tuesday night, Warren presented the planning board with a memorandum outlining Leonard’s responses to environmental impacts, which the board was counseled to take the next month to review before a lengthy discussion at its April 24 meeting.
“This way, at the next meeting, I will know where the board is coming from and how you view this application from an environmental perspective,” said Warren, adding that outside of making a determination the board could also request more information from Leonard or an outside source.
“You are allowed to gather whatever resources you need to make this decision,” Warren counseled.
Planning board member Greg Ferraris noted there was an earlier discussion about Leonard going to the zoning board to gain clarity on the issue of the convenience store size.
Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes noted the zoning board is waiting on the planning board’s environmental review to be concluded before it takes up that issue.
“It would be nice going forward to get some resolution on what the retail space is going to be,” said planning board chairman Neil Slevin.
“It appears to me, at this point and time no one has chosen to grapple with that issue in a substantive way as to what constitutes gross floor area for retail,” said board member Larry Perrine.
“We need to operate under the assumption that we are looking at a 1,000 square-foot store,” said Ferraris.