By Stephen J. Kotz
The future of the lease between the nonprofit Breakwater Yacht Club and Sag Harbor Village has been called into question by Mayor Brian Gilbride, who on Wednesday said he was concerned the village has not been generating enough revenue from the arrangement.
The club, which runs a number of community sailing programs, has been operating on a 20-year lease, which expires on May 31, but that lease allows the club to exercise an option to renew it for an additional 10 years. The club has already indicated to the village that it intends to exercise that option, but Mr. Gilbride said he wants to bring its board members to the table to discuss ways to make the arrangement more fair to village taxpayers.
“I’d certainly disagree that a 20-year lease with an automatic 10-year renewal was in the best interest of the village then or in its best interest now,” Mr. Gilbride said. He said the club pays the village $3,000 a year now and would be paying $3,500 a year for the next 10 years unless the lease is modified.
Although the club sponsors a junior sailing program for children, hands out 20 to 30 scholarships for summer sailing programs and sponsors a high school sailing team, Mr. Gilbride said it also uses its clubhouse for private parties, yoga classes, and other events that generate significant revenue.
“Absolutely not,” Mr. Gilbride responded when asked if he wanted to evict the club. “If I was, that ship would have long sailed by now.”
The lease was a discussion item at Tuesday’s Village Board meeting, and the mayor and Bruce Tait, a member of the club’s board of directors, got into a testy exchange over whether the village had the right to negotiate any portion of the lease.
“We aren’t asking to renegotiate the lease. That’s not on the table,” Mr. Tait said. He added that the only way the village could get around the lease was if it could prove the club was violating the terms of the agreement or if it sought to take property through an eminent domain proceeding if it had a public use for the property.
At Tuesday’s meeting and again on Wednesday, Fred W. Thiele Jr., the board’s attorney, said he believed the club was in its rights to exercise the option as is.
When Mr. Tait continued to press his argument, Mr. Gilbride told him he was not helping matters. “Let me tell you something. I think you are wrong. Let me tell you a little more. I know you are wrong,” Mr. Gilbride told Mr. Tait. “So before you put Breakwater in hot water why don’t you stop right there.”
On Wednesday, Olaf Neubert, the club’s commodore, said he had not been informed that the lease was going to be on the board’s agenda this week. He added that he believed it was well within its rights to exercise the option. “There are no bells or whistles attached to it,” he said.
“It is clear we are part of the community,” continued Mr. Neubert, who stressed that the club is more of a community center than a private club. He said the club, which is designated as nonprofit by the Internal Revenue Service, passed a recent audit with flying colors.
He said he looked forward to discussing the lease and the club’s future with board members as soon as possible.
Bed and Breakfasts
A proposed code amendment sponsored by Trustee Sandra Schroeder that would provide for a way for bed and breakfast to be licensed by the village drew a sharp rebuke from Pierce Hance, a resident of Main Street.
Currently bed and breakfasts are allowed if the homeowner obtains a special exception permit. Ms. Schroeder proposed the change, she has said, because the village is aware some people are quietly renting a room or two and officials are most concerned about making sure they are safe.
“What we are doing is changing the code to accommodate people who are violating the code,” said Mr. Hance. Instead of legalizing the approximately 13 bed and breakfasts advertising online “why aren’t you just going to them and saying you are violating the code. Cease and desist.”
“This is effectively validating the commercialization of the R-20 zoning district,” added Mr. Hance.
Board members and Mr. Thiele said Mr. Hance was taking a far too narrow view of the proposed amendment, which will be the subject of a public hearing next month.
In other action, the board agreed, at the request of building inspector Tom Preiato to write to the owners of the Morpurgo House at 6 Union Street, informing them that that the property is unsafe and it must be secured and portions of it demolished. The property has been in a dilapidated condition for decades and only recently emerged from the depths of a murky mortgage fraud case. On Wednesday, Mr. Preiato said the owners would have 30 days to meet the village’s demands, or it would undertake the work itself.