Tag Archive | "bruce tait"

Tait Steps Down From Harbor Committee

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Sag Municipal Building

By Stephen J. Kotz

Bruce Tait, a long-time member of the Harbor Committee, who was stripped of his chairmanship after an ongoing public dispute with Sag Harbor Mayor Gilbride and the Village Board, tendered his resignation on November 5.

“I resigned at this time because I felt the committee was in good hands with a strong leadership and membership and very capable of carrying out the duties that the trustees give them,” Mr. Tait said in an email message from Sorrento, Italy, where he is on a business trip.

“I have been on the committee for many years. And my professional commitments and my volunteer work with the junior sailing program and high school sailing programs at Breakwater Community Sailing are taking more of my time.”

The board’s new chairman, Stephen Clarke, announced Mr. Tait’s resignation at the board’s meeting on Monday.

“I want to take a second to acknowledge his contributions not only to this board, but also to this village,” Mr. Clarke said. “He’ll be missed.”

Mr. Tait, who said he had served on the committee for at least 15 years, found himself in political hot water when he began to publicly criticize first the mayor, and later the entire village board, for what he said was their failure to pay close enough attention to the village waterfront.

This spring, he complained that the village board ignored its own Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) by failing to ask for the Harbor Committee’s input on a number of proposals affecting the waterfront. Furthermore, he said the village was squandering the opportunity to maximize revenue from its docks and mooring field by not better managing the process by which moorings are awarded. He also charged that it was allowing waterfront assets like Long Wharf to deteriorate.

His complaints did not go unnoticed. When the village board held its annual reorganizational meeting in July, Mr. Tait’s name was conspicuously absent from the list of Harbor Committee members up for reappointment.

Mayor Gilbride later said that Mr. Tait’s public chastising of the board was too much and that it was time for a change and appointed Mr. Clarke to replace him as chairman. The mayor said Mr. Tait would continue to serve in a holdover capacity without an official appointment.

This week, Mr. Tait said he believed the committee was in good hands with Mr. Clarke as chairman and the recent appointments of John Shaka as member and Joseph Tremblay as an alternate member.

At Monday’s meeting, committee members said they would soon offer the village board a list of potential replacements.

Harbor Committee

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Bruce Tait, the chairman of the Sag Harbor Harbor Committee, his arm in a brace from a recent work accident, was in a feisty mood on Monday.

Citing a growing workload and an increase in applications in areas close to fragile wetlands and bluffs, Mr. Tait called on the Sag Harbor Village Board to revisit its wetlands law and put an end to the confusion that he said his committee and the Zoning Board of Appeals have in enforcing it.

“I’m very close to making a recommendation to the trustees that we have a moratorium on wetlands permits until this conflict is resolved,” Mr. Tait said, shortly after announcing at the top of the meeting that he wanted to dispense with the regular agenda until his board had an opportunity to discuss his concerns.

The committee agreed, passing unanimously a resolution asking the village board to act. Because the turnaround time could be slow, Mr. Tait said he was prepared to ask his committee to request a moratorium when it meets next month.

“The right way to go is a moratorium so everyone is on the right page,” he said.

Denise Schoen, the committee’s attorney, agreed that the wetlands law needs to be revisited.

“We should make sure the ZBA gets input from the Harbor Committee before it grants any wetlands variances,” she said. In some cases, the ZBA has acted unilaterally, she said, because it “did not want to hold up an applicant.”

She added that perhaps any applications requiring a wetlands permit should be the sole purview of the Harbor Committee.

“I don’t know that we need two layers of review,” she said. “But if we are going to keep it that way, the zoning board needs to get on the same page as the harbor committee.”

“There is a whole bunch of stuff that needs to be firmed up, that doesn’t read smoothly, doesn’t set up a procedure,” she said of the current wetlands law. “If we repealed the whole thing and started fresh, we might get a better product.”

Anton Hagen, the chairman of the ZBA, said he would welcome a meeting of the minds. “There clearly is a need to define a procedure,” he said.

There are times, he said, when the ZBA is asked to act on an application that has already been before the harbor committee, but the ZBA will not know how the harbor committee responded because it has not received a written report.

“Sometimes attorneys for the applicants will tell us that the harbor committee signed off on something and we have no way of really knowing if that is true or not,” he said.

Mr. Tait said ever since the zoning code was revised five years ago, and the Harbor Committee tasked with weighing in on wetlands applications that also go before the ZBA, confusion has reigned. In some cases, he said, the ZBA has approved wetland setback variances before the harbor committee gets an opportunity to weigh in. At other times, the harbor committee’s permit conditions are ignored by applicants, he said. And he groused that the village does not pursue violators.

“We have no enforcement side to the code,” Mr. Tait said. “We have been told flat out that there is nobody who is enforcing it.”

If the village would not enforce its code, he said, the harbor committee would take matters into its own hands.

“I want to have an agenda item, at the start of every meeting, a discussion item when we have in front of us wetland applications that have been in front of us before that have violations of the permit we have granted them,” Mr. Tait added.

“I’m looking at Google Earth and I’m seeing it right there in real time applications that we have approved that are being ignored in terms of buffers,” he said. “There’s no code enforcement, absolutely no code enforcement.”

Committee member Jeff Peters volunteered to visit properties that have had applications before the committee.

“We have to start somewhere. Why not start today?” he said.

Committee member Stephen Clarke said many applicants know they have a constrained lot and try to push the committee to approve more than it should. If the ZBA acts without harbor committee input, “our hands are tied,” he said. “I don’t want to sit here and make a decision on something for which a variance has already been granted.”

“What we are seeing now is an influx of very aggressive applications with lots of accessory structures and more and more pressure to move faster and faster,” said Mr. Tait. “I’m not opposed to making the process more efficient, but we have to be careful.”

The mood carried over to the meeting’s main agenda. In reviewing a decision it approved last month, allowing Herbert Sambol to expand a 970-square-foot one-story cottage at 22 Cove Road into a 2,585-square-foot two-story house, Mr. Tait said it was an example of the problems facing the board.

“This was a particularly difficult application to come to us because of the preexisting variances” that were approved by the ZBA, he said. The committee’s approval carried with it 17 conditions.

“This is an application that we are going to look at very, very carefully and see that they are followed,” he said.

Mr. Peters who abstained last month, voted no on Monday, arguing that a plan to replant the bluff in front of the house was doomed to failure because of ongoing erosion. He said the bluff should be terraced instead.

The committee balked at making referrals on two other properties. In the first case, Marius Fortelni sought permission to quadruple the size of a one-story 1,218-square-foot house by building in its place a 2,914-square-foot, two-story house at 14 Bluff Point Road. But the board said it should be scaled back because there was no compelling reason given as to why the applicant could not build a smaller house farther from the cove.



Under Way: Ed Gifford’s Photos Celebrate the Glory of Sailing

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Ed Gifford's photo of a 92' ketch rigged Whitehawk designed by Bruce King

Ed Gifford’s photo of a 92′ ketch rigged Whitehawk designed by Bruce King

By Annette Hinkle

It’s fair to say that Ed Gifford has always been enamored by two things — boats and photography.

“Growing up in New York City on Riverside Drive, I loved watching the barges and the tugs on the Hudson,” recalls Gifford. “I saw the Macy’s fireworks barge blow up when I was about five.”

“The Hudson was fascinating.”

And boats — especially sailboats — have long been in his blood. In the summer of 1975, Gifford, who spent summers here as a kid, signed up for East Hampton Town’s sailing program.

“I had to bike from Springs to Northwest Harbor,” he says. “It was a tough ride on an old three speed. I took the program with Pat Mundus and Larry Koncelik. It was a treacherous bike ride, but those two made it so much fun and I got the bug.”

After being bitten, Gifford walked into the Sag Harbor office of Bruce Tait to ask for a summer job on a boat. That was 30 years ago and he has since logged 45,000 boating hours, delivered many a sailboat from the East End to the Caribbean and taken part in several races (including the Buenos Aires to Rio race).

But Gifford is not just an avid sailor, he is also a professional photographer and was first inspired by a book of Alfred Eisenstaedt photographs he found in the garbage at the age of 12. He began pursuing photography professionally at 14 when he started shooting for his father, a theatrical publicist.

“I shot The National Lampoon Show with John Belushi and Bill Murray in their New York City debut,” says Gifford. “My first public picture was published in the New York Times when I was 14 — it was Gilda Radner as Patty Hearst.”

Gifford took classes at the International Center of Photography and by 15, was interning at the New York Post. He went on to study photography at Hunter College with Roy DeCarava (and even shot for the Sag Harbor Express at one point).

This weekend, Gifford’s two loves merge in “The Glory of Sail” an exhibition of classic yachts under sail at Bruce Tait Yachts in Sag Harbor. The show will remain on view throughout the summer. An opening reception will be held next Saturday and the exhibition is a retrospective of Gifford’s images of racing boats in their fully glory.

“I photograph mainly famous old racing boats and some old cool yachts,” explains Gifford who notes that one location in particular has a special draw for him — Antiqua in the Caribbean.

It’s a place Gifford has gotten to know well through his work with Bruce Tait.

“I went to Antigua on Id, a boat out of Sag Harbor in 1989. It was my first time in Antigua and I’ve since done may deliveries there and back,” says Gifford. “I’m always passing through Antigua and it’s a place I keep ending up in. Bruce and [his daughter] Danielle are very involved in the sailing scene there and have a lot of clients there. I’m always running into them there.”

Gifford notes the challenges of capturing a racing yacht in full sail is a combination of skill, knowledge and weather conditions, and when it comes to the weather, Gifford loves what Antigua has to offer.

“I’m striving for the painterly effect. The sky and water color — you’re in the Gulf Stream and every place is beautiful,” says Gifford. “You often get these great cumulus clouds and good wind. I think a sky with clouds is more interesting than a blue sky.”

Though Gifford shoots mainly classic old racing boats, he also shoots work boats — an English North Sea trawler is among his images.

“You have to be in the right place at the right time to get the shot,” says Gifford when asked about the challenges of shooting boats under sail. “You also have to have a really good boat driver.”

“You have to figure out what conditions make the boat look great,” he adds. “It’s like fishing. Some days you get a shot and some days you don’t — you have to hit it right.”

Gifford researches and frequently writes about the boats he photographs. Some of them date as far back as the 1870s — which brings up the question of whether such a boat truly still exists if virtually every piece of it has been replaced over the years.

“Every seven years your body renews every cell,” says Gifford. “That’s what happens with these boats. The marine environment is so caustic, they won’t last. It’s very rare to find one that hasn’t had a lot of work put into it.”

Through his work and sailing, over the years, Gifford has made some close connections with people who have helped him pull this show together.

Michael Mella is printing and designing the show and is a corporate photographer,” he says. “[Sailor and photographer] Jonathan Morse helped design the postcard and did a lot of legwork. Another friend and mentor is Jim Mackin. They did all kinds of stuff to help me and I’m really appreciative to all of them.”

“The sea breeds loyalty and a tight knit group,” he adds. You don’t survive if you don’t have that,” he says. “This show is a confluence of different paths coming together and coming full circle. These pictures were incredible to do.”

And for the record? Gifford’s dream boat would be a retired 1980’s aluminum 50 foot IOR (International Offshore Rule) race boat.

Just sayin’.

 “The Glory of Sail” opens Saturday, June 29, 2013 with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. at Bruce Tait & Associates, 1A Bay Street, Sag Harbor. Entrance is on the dock side of the building. For details call 725-4222.

Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee Focuses on Water Quality

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee has been tasked with protecting the waterfront one addition, pool and dock at a time — imposing a wetlands buffer as each new project comes before the committee in an effort to reduce the amount of fertilizers and toxins entering bays and estuaries.

Most applicants have sought to comply minimally with the wetlands buffer legislation, seeking 25 feet of natural vegetation to a wetlands area — allowed under the code for properties that are undersized and therefore permitted to seek a buffer below the standard 75 foot requirement.

According to Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Richard Warren, of Inter-Science Research Associates in Southampton, that exception was created within the wetlands code specifically because of the often small lot sizes in Sag Harbor Village. However, on Monday night during the Harbor Committee’s monthly meeting, Warren suggested the board review the wetlands regulations and what it feels it should require. Should a property owner, for example, be granted a wetlands permit with a 25 foot buffer under the rule for undersized lots when they are proposing a large house, with a pool on the waterfront, Warren wondered.

And the committee largely agreed that as more applications come in on the waterfront, hammering out very specific conditions for exceptions and standards for what kind of native vegetation it would like to see planted as a result of waterfront development was crucial moving forward.

On Monday night, the board heard from one applicant hoping to gain the board’s approval for what would ultimately be a smaller wetlands boundary than minimally required under the village code. Outside of a “lawfully operating marina or recreational marina” any construction requires a 75 foot setback under village code. The installation of wastewater disposal systems requires a 100 foot setback and clearing, fertilizing of vegetation, use of herbicides or the establishment of turf, lawn or landscaping requires a 50 foot setback.

Josh Schwartz, who has proposed reconstructing a rock bulkhead with a new corrugated bulkhead, after he said erosion has threatened his property, came before the board also proposing a 4-by-76-foot dock. For either project a minimum 25 foot buffer would be required under the code.

However, according to Warren, the buffer only stretches along one portion of the bulkhead, leaving a sandy beach — where the family enjoys its outdoor Adirondack chairs — untouched.

Warren said he had no issues with the change in the style of bulkhead but was concerned the vegetative buffer was not significant enough.

“This is not really, in my opinion, consistent with what the code says, which is you have to plant and replant a buffer if necessary,” said Warren.

Schwartz noted the sandy beach has been there since before his family purchased the property, dating back 25 years on the most recent survey.

“When we have a house that has had grassy lawn right up to the bulkhead for 100 years and they come in to improve their property, they lose 25 feet of that lawn,” noted committee chairman Bruce Tait. “The only way we can get these buffers back is through new applications for construction.”

“What we are trying to do, the purpose of this is to protect the waters we have out there,” explained Tait. “The only way we can is apply a 25 foot buffer is on new applications.”

Tait noted if Schwartz wanted to keep his beach, he would need to either not make an application for either the bulkhead or dock or apply to the zoning board of appeals for relief from the wetlands law. Schwartz has proposed 25 feet of wetlands buffer, but just on one side of the bulkhead.

Schwartz said he would talk with his family and return to the board before making a suggestion.

After that business was closed, Warren suggested the board take a second look at the wetlands law — not to reduce it, but rather to strengthen the code as its stands.

“You are starting to see a theme here where people don’t see they are required to have a 50 foot setback and you are automatically giving them 25 feet,” he said.

The board agreed.

Board member Stephen Clarke, following board member Jeff Peters suggestion, noted the committee should also have a strict planting plan, designating which species of native plants and how big they should be for any buffer system.

The board’s next meeting is on July 8.

It’s Haze and Osprey-Breakwater Yacht Club

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Last Wednesday the Breakwater Yacht Club Summer Cup Series continued its season, with a clutch victory by Purple Haze, piloted by Lee Oldak and Dan Kalish. They took the Division I race with a corrected time of 1:53.43. Donald Filipelli’s “Caminos” took second with a time of 1:53:58, followed by Bruce Tait’s Buckaroo, which crossed with a time of 1:57:10. Bud Rogers’ “Big Boat” came in fourth. Jim Vos’ “Skoot” came in fifth, followed by Steve Kenny and Greg Ames’ “Gossip”, with Wayne & Carol Morse’s “Roxanne” in last.

In Division II, George Martin’s “Osprey” took first place, with a corrected time of 1:55:02, beating out second place Scott Gaeckle’s “Kingfisher” by a full minute. In third place were Jim Smyth and Derrick Galen’s “White Lightning” with a time of 1:56:41. David Betts and Charlene Kagel’s “Instant Karma” took fourth. Mark Webber and Matt Ivans’ “Loki” took fifth, followed by Chris DiSunno in “Swans’ Way”, Barry Browning in “Skidip!”, B. Dinsmore and J. Worthing in “Ridin’ Point” and Jody LoCascio in “Boogie Van”.

Boat Party in Jeopardy

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web Boat Party 2010

by David McCabe

The Sag Harbor Village’s Harbor Committee discussed issues related to an annual boat party in Sag Harbor during its meeting on Monday, opening up the possibility that village authorities could stop the event from happening this year.

Bruce Tait, the chair of the Harbor Committee, told the event’s organizer, Charles Canavan, that he could order a consistency review of the event — which assesses if a proposal is in line with the policies outlined in the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP). That would make it more difficult for the party to take place in Sag Harbor Cove, where it has been held since 2010.

Tait noted that if the board’s hypothetical review were to find the proposal inconsistent with LWRP policies, then the state would have to overrule the board before the event could take place.

The boat party, which drew some 150 to 200 vessels last year, has been in existence for around two decades. Every year, boats and their owners have converged at a location on the East End to eat, drink and listen to live bands which perform on a barge set up by organizers. However, that location has hardly remained constant. In the past, the event has been held within the jurisdiction of Shelter Island and East Hampton, but both town’s passed ordinances that would have required the party’s organizers to file for an event permit.

Now, it may be Sag Harbor’s turn to give the party the heave ho.

At the Harbor Committee meeting, members of that board, led by Tait, raised concerns about the potential environmental impacts of the event.

“We’re concerned about so many boats and so many people congregating in such an environmentally sensitive area,” Tait said.

Sag Harbor Cove, which is the site of multiple shellfish beds, has been the focus of studies in recent years that indicate it is particularly susceptible to environmental pollution, said Tait. When the State of New York conducted dye tests on the area — which involve pigment being released into the water to assess which way it flows and how fast —  Tait said the dye left the cove, but then went back in, indicating the cove has a weak “flush” system. In basic terms, this means that water does not strongly circulate through the cove.

The committee told Canavan, one of three people in attendance at the meeting, that it was worried party goers would need access to restroom facilities which would be unavailable on some of the smaller boats.

“I know that when I start drinking at 12 o’clock and go on to 6 o’clock that there’s a certain point that I would need to find the facilities,” said Tait.

“I know for a fact that there are many, many boats that are under 20 feet that don’t have holding tanks, that don’t have facilities,” Tait added.

Canavan protested that local authorities seem to like the party’s presence. He claimed that when he almost shut down last year’s boat party because of inclement weather, members of the police department urged him not to.

He also said the event serves people of all ages, from seniors down to children.

“What I’ve noticed in the past is grandparents dancing with their grandchildren,” he said.

Canavan said that his event will likely raise funds for the non-profit Peconic BayKeeper, which aims to protect the Peconic Bay. He indicated that the Peconic BayKeeper himself — Kevin MacAllister — would attend the Harbor Committee’s next meeting.

Tait expressed worry Wednesday that having McAllister give a statement on the environmental impact of the boat party when his group stands to gain financially from the event could create the appearance of impropriety.

“I’m a little concerned about the money trail on that,” he said.

Tait also said he is personally wary of an event that puts swimmers in close proximity to outboard motors.

“In this thing you have boats and swimmers co-mingling with no lines of delineation between the two,” he said.

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees has introduced legislation aimed at allowing the village to regulate mass gatherings — events over 75 people — even if it is held on the water. A public hearing on that legislation will be held at next month’s village board meeting on July 10.

The committee tabled the discussion, but Tait said he plans to bring it up at the Harbor Committee’s July 9 session.

Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee Votes Against Bulkhead on West Water Street

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Despite having seemingly secured the votes to adopt a resolution supporting a bulkhead project on West Water Street during a work session held two weeks ago, this week a majority of the Sag Harbor Village Harbor committee reversed their decision. They instead asked the village board to look at other options, or at the very least, provide the committee with a detailed report on why other counter-erosion efforts would prove ineffective on that section of beachfront.

For a decade now, erosion has plagued a portion of West Water Street, directly across from a now defunct condominium project. For over two years now, the current village board has been closely monitoring erosion at the site, which was left deteriorated in the wake of storms in 2009 through 2011, with whole sections of the embankment eroded to the point where some utility lines were exposed. Directly under the narrow roadway lie septic, water and electricity lines.

In June, Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren conceived formal plans to construct a 568-foot vinyl bulkhead at the beach as well as five four-by-four platforms with stairs to allow access to the beach and dockage.

The proposal still is awaiting New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) approval, although according to village officials the NYSDEC supports the concept of a bulkhead on the project and shot down several other counter-erosion options including the use of gabions — wire cages filled with rocks that would be placed against the embankment.

While Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait has supported the project, last month he failed to find the votes to deem it consistent with the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Project (LWRP). At a work session late last month, Tait appeared to have secured some votes in favor of the project, but failed to find the same support during Monday night’s Harbor Committee meeting.

Before a vote was taken, Tait encouraged his board to at least vote the measure down or approve it rather than make no resolution and leave the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees without any feedback.

Tait added that he believes the village’s Harbor Management Plan, which dates back far before the LWRP to the 1960s, supports this kind of project.

The Harbor Management Plan notes the Harbor District in Sag Harbor has “been subject to extensive public investment that is exposed to flood hazards out of necessity,” read Tait directly from the document. “Therefore, the water dependent uses in the waterfront and marine zoning districts have a priority for shoreline hardening to protect them against the erosive forces of storm events … Where a substantial portion of the water-dependent use in the Harbor District has been bulkheaded, it may be desirable to continue the bulkheading along the full length of the use.”

“There are key words there: ‘may be’,” replied committee member Jeff Peters. “There has to be another way.”

Committee member Brian Halweil said that while that language supports bulkheading there is also language within several policies of the LWRP that do not.

He said unless he was shown evidence that other alternatives were ruled out, he was inclined to find it inconsistent with the LWRP.

Peters and John Christopher supported Halweil’s motion. Tait did not support the resolution and committee member Dr. Tom Halton was absent.

Halweil also asked the village board to look into a long term plan for the outflow pipe in that area, as well as more details on plantings and why there is no opportunity for planting beyond the bulkhead and down onto the existing beach.

Meanwhile, the committee continued to hold the line on its demand that applicants hoping for a wetlands permit fulfill at least the minimum requirement of a 25-foot wetlands buffer of native plants in order to be given approval — in particular, when it comes to its own membership.

Christopher, who recused himself from the discussion, has proposed a 668-square-foot addition on the upland side of his 92 Redwood Road home. His planner, Matt Ivans of Suffolk Environmental, originally proposed no additional wetlands buffer as the Christopher family has preserved a large expanse of wetlands on their property.

After months of debate, Ivans came back this week with a 15-foot wetlands buffer.

Tait said he would need to hear an argument for hardship, outside of wanting more lawn, in order for the application to gain his support.

Halweil said he believed the committee should take into account the fact the Christophers are building on the landward side of their home and are not adding a pool. He said he was willing to find the application consistent.

“There are three people voting on this board tonight and I think we need to hold the standards high,” said Tait.

“My personal fear is going to be like the Town of Southampton where every time you want to do something it is going to be another bite out of the apple, more and more and more buffer,” said Ivans.

Both Southampton and East Hampton towns are even more restrictive with their wetland setbacks.

As the committee was unable to reach consensus, they agreed to table the measure until next month’s November 14 meeting.

Similarly, David Sokolin’s wetlands permit applicant was also tabled. Sokolin has proposed a 13 by 25-foot swimming pool within his existing deck at 176 Redwood Road. Last month, his planner, Sean Barron, proposed at 10-foot wetlands buffer and was quickly sent back to the drawing board.

Sokolin argued on Monday night that he was sensitive to environmental issues, which was why he chose to construct the pool within the existing deck and not in the yard.

Barron added he has submitted a new plan with a 15-foot buffer, which does extend 20-feet if decking next to the bulkhead is counted as a part of the buffer plan.

Tait advised them to come back next month and show a plan that can get as close to the minimum requirement as possible, even if it means proposing 30-feet of buffer on the sides of the property and less in the center.

Warren added the committee is actually asked to enforce a 75-foot buffer, but can make exceptions. However, the code states that under no circumstances should they allow a buffer smaller than 25-feet in an effort to protect the wetlands and the waterfront of Sag Harbor.

“Take a big bite out of this, otherwise go to the zoning board of appeals,” said Tait. “There is an appeal process.”

Richard Pantina of 12 Notre Dame Road has proposed demolishing an existing house and building a new two-story home with a 2,934-square-footprint as well as a swimming pool, spa, stone patio and new sanitary system.

Last month, Tait and the committee asked that Ivans come back with a buffer larger than 25-feet given the scale of the development, and on Monday, Ivans delivered by proposing 35-feet of buffer to the wetlands.

He is expected to be granted his permit next month.

Harbor Committee Takes A Stand on Water Quality

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For the last two months, the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee has not been following its own village code when granting wetlands permits. This has allowed some applicants to maintain a smaller buffer of natural vegetation to wetlands than the law requires — a law drafted in an effort to protect what some consider to be Sag Harbor’s most valuable asset, it’s waterfront.

According to both Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren and village attorney Denise Schoen, the Sag Harbor Village law demands that when improving their properties, waterfront homeowners preserve all natural vegetation within 75-feet of the mean high water mark, or to the maximum extent practicable.

However, the code states that “in no event” should the committee allow a natural, vegetative buffer to the wetlands that is less than 25-feet, and if that area is already lawn, owners are tasked with replanting the land with native vegetation. On a handful of applications for wetlands permits this summer, the board did just that — allowed homeowners smaller buffers than the law requires. All the while, chairman Bruce Tait said he believed his committee was on “a slippery slope.”

On Monday night, the committee took a renewed hard stance on wetland buffers. They tabled several applications, including one by committee member John Christopher, as consultants were sent back to the drawing board and asked to try and meet the minimum 25-foot buffer requirement.

Christopher has proposed a 668-square-foot one-story addition upland of his home at 92 Redwood Road. Given that the family has maintained a section of natural vegetation on the wetlands, his consultant Matt Ivans asked the board waive the buffer requirement altogether.

However, Warren noted that while there are native plants bordering the wetlands on the Christopher property, the existing buffer ranges from 15-feet to just a few feet on some portions of the property.

On Monday night, Warren said he had talked with village attorney Schoen and was told it was her understanding that if an applicant does not have at least 25-feet of native plants buffering the wetlands, he or she must at least to attempt to achieve that goal. Otherwise a property owner needs to show the village why it would be a hardship to comply with the law.

“In most East End communities, the buffers are larger than this,” said Warren. “When we were looking at the code, we considered the fact that the lots in Sag Harbor were smaller, but the 25-foot minimum requirement has been in the village’s wetlands regulations for many years.”

“We may be able to get another 25-feet, but then we have no lawn,” argued Kim Christopher, who charged that her neighbors actually removed native plants from their waterfront before applying for a permit with the village so that they would be able to keep a larger lawn.

“So he is able to keep his lawn because they pulled out all the natural vegetation,” said Christopher. “I am not a lawyer, but that is not just.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will investigate any complaints of the removal of wetlands. Their fines can be as large as $10,000 per day, plus the cost of re-vegetation.

Dr. Tom Halton, who along with the whole committee was sympathetic that the Christophers appeared good stewards of their property, asked if the committee has any other recourse.

Tait suggested the Christophers’ look at a plan that creates large sections of natural buffer where the lawn is least important to them in order to reach an average 25-foot buffer across their waterfront. He added the Christophers had “substantial yardage” to work with and that he did not view it as a hardship for them to come up with a workable plan.

“There is a consensus on the East End of Long Island that in order to maintain water quality we need to establish a 75-foot buffer zone to the wetlands,” said Tait. “If you are in Southampton or East Hampton, you would have a much harder time with this. Now we are down to 25-feet and we as a committee are trying to establish a 25-foot buffer to the wetlands within the entire area covered in the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.”

For similar reasons, the board also tabled David Sokolin’s application for a permit to construct a swimming pool at his 176 Redwood Road residence, after his consultant said the project did not meet the required buffer to the wetlands.

Another waterfront homeowner, Richard Pantina, applied to the board to demolish an existing house at 12 Notre Dame Road and build a two-story house with a 2,934 footprint, as well as a pool, hot tub, stone patio, new drainage features and a new septic system.

Tait said he was pleased to see the improvements on the property, but given the scale of the project would like to see more than 25-feet of natural plants buffering the wetlands.

“This is a maxed out development,” said Warren.

Ivans, also representing Pantina, said he would ask his client if they can increase the buffer zone.

“In the spirit of this evening, let’s have some more,” said Tait.

Former Mayor Balks at Bulkhead Proposal for West Water Street

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A former Sag Harbor Village mayor lambasted plans proposed by the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to install a bulkhead along a portion of beachfront on West Water Street during a Harbor Committee meeting this week, and questioned why that body wasn’t more concerned with protecting valuable foreshore just outside the village’s downtown.

On Monday, August 8, Pierce Hance approached the committee questioning the trustees’ plans to stabilize the West Water Street embankment, directly across from the stalled 21 West Water Street condominium project.

For over two years now, the village board has been monitoring erosion at this particular section of beachfront, which after snow and rain storms in 2009, 2010 and 2011 left sections of the embankment deteriorated to the roadway, posing a possible threat to not only the road, but the septic, water and electric lines that line below the asphalt.

Despite temporary fixes by the village’s Department of Public Works, which dumped sand and rocks on the beachfront in an effort to sure-up the shoreline in the short-term, dating back to early 2010 trustees began discussing finding a long term solution to the problem. In June village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren announced formal plans to bulkhead the beach with a 568-foot vinyl bulkhead, as well as five four-by-four platforms with stairs to allow access to the beach.

The proposal still is awaiting New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) approval, as well as approval from the Harbor Committee, which will hold a formal hearing on the proposal at its September 12 meeting.

Hance said that erosion in that area has been a problem for over a decade and a problem that was ignored for years.

“The problem is neglect and the solution is not putting in a bulkhead,” said Hance. “The solution is remediating that foreshore.”

Hance said if the village does bulkhead the area, before long, no beach will be left, and along with committee member Dr. Tom Halton, noted the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan is not in favor of bulkhead projects.

Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait disagreed, arguing the LWRP advocates for not using shoreline hardening when there are other choices to be considered.

“One fact we can agree upon is there is a danger of losing that road if something isn’t done,” said Tait.

Tait said 15 years ago, the village considered installing coconut coir logs, durable biodegradable erosion prevention logs, and it may be advisable to at least explore that as another solution. However, he added, it may be the beachfront has eroded to a point where that is no longer viable and the only way to save the roadway is through a bulkhead.

Hance disagreed, calling bulkheading that area tantamount to creating “a dead waterfront.”

Warren said the kind of remediation Hance was suggesting would require the village to fill out into the water or cut back into the roadway, as the embankment is too steep in the center to support vegetation.

“Most of that bank is vertical and there are big pieces coming off,” he said, adding the bulkhead was actually an idea supported by the NYSDEC.

“If you are feeling like you want to do something different, you should schedule a work session with the board of trustees,” he advised the committee.

One of the Harbor Committee’s own members, John Christopher, was sent back to the drawing board on Monday night after a wetlands permit he sought to add a one story addition to his 92 Redwood Road home was tabled after the board asked that a better plan to buffer wetlands be drafted by his consultant.

Christopher sat silent during the hearing after recusing himself from the discussion while his consultant Matt Ivans of Suffolk Environmental Consulting laid out Christopher’s problem.

Christopher’s addition is actually on the landward side of his residence, over 80-feet from the wetlands, and he and his wife have maintained what Ivans described as a thriving and dense natural buffer without regulation.

Ivans said his client hoped to be exempt from the buffer requirement given that he has maintained so much natural vegetation.

Dr. Tom Halton agreed, questioning why projects landward from existing structures should even be considered for a wetlands permit by the committee, and therefore subject to providing a natural buffer to wetlands areas.

“What we are trying to do by wetlands law is ensure we have buffers in place throughout the area,” explained Tait. “The only way we can do that is enforce the law as a permit comes in. But we have an ability to look at these and make judgments as we see fit and that is the purpose of having this board look at these permits; otherwise it would be a stamp at the building department.”

Warren noted the committee’s code demands buffers as great as 75-feet to wetlands, and states they should not approve any natural buffer less than 25-feet. He noted that Christopher’s existing buffer ranges from 15-feet in size to just a few on some portions of the property.

Tait asked Ivans so come back with a plan at the committee’s next meeting that shows a compromise.

Harbor Committee Split Over New Code

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The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will have no guidance from its Harbor Committee after three members of the advisory panel reached an impasse regarding their opinion on the proposed zoning code and its impact on the waterfront district.

Despite Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait maintaining during an April 13 meeting that he believes the new code both protects the village as a whole and will not harm current waterfront business, with two members absent he was unable to sway the rest of the board that the code was in line with the guidelines set out in the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).

Specifically, it appeared as if committee members Dr. Tom Halton and Nancy Haynes were swayed by owners of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and the Sag Harbor Boat Yard and their concern over marinas, yacht clubs and boat yards being proposed as a special exception use, not a permitted use as they are currently zoned, in the new code. All current businesses would be considered pre-existing, non-conforming should the code be adopted and therefore would be able to operate as they have and even change hands without repercussions. Only if the business owners wished to change the use on their properties or seek additional uses, like the creation of a restaurant, would they fall under the proposed zoning code.

On Monday night it was Lou Grignon, owner of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, and Sag Harbor Yacht Club Director Robert Camerino who approached the committee about their concerns regarding the zoning code.

Grignon, acknowledging he should be addressing the village board on the reasons behind the zoning code changes, returned to a similar discussion broached during last month’s meeting. He has questioned whether boat yards, commercial fishing charters, yacht sales and charters, marinas, boat dealerships and yacht clubs should be changed to fall under special exception rather than a permitted use. Under special exception, any expansion or new use on a waterfront property would be subject to review that includes a discussion on whether the use would be appropriate for the neighborhood or not.

At last month’s meeting Grignon argued the plan was inconsistent with the LWRP, a planning document for the village that protects the harbor and encourages waterfront businesses, as it states the village should shy away from legislation that would adversely impact marina businesses. However, both Tait and village planner Richard Warren disagreed with Grignon’s interpretation of the LWRP, which they assert asks the village to protect what currently exists on the waterfront rather than the business potential of the waterfront. Both Tait and Warren also said during Monday night’s meeting that they did not believe the new code was detrimental to existing businesses, as they retain their permitted status as pre-existing non-conforming entities.

“Nothing by being designated special exception changes any purposes or uses of a [current] marina,” said Tait. “It stays exactly the same as it always has been. So I would just like to ask what the adverse effect is.”

Grignon countered he believes the property value is affected by this change, a notion Camerino and the board of directors of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club also used as the core of their argument against the proposed code.

“I understand that if I never ask for anything, never change, I am permitted,” said Grignon.

Tait countered with a fully developed waterfront, the LWRP mandates the village look at new uses more carefully, which he believes the new code allows. Grignon argued the marina district, eliminated in the new code, and the waterfront district, were kept separate as unique areas of the village, the Redwoods section of the waterfront more residential and the Bay Street side more industrial supporting torpedo factories and the like in its history.

Camerino, reading from a prepared statement, backed up Grignon’s concerns and added the yacht club believes an economic impact statement should be conducted before the committee weighs in on the code.

“Furthermore it is imperative that the village implement an economic impact study to determine any and all possible adverse economic effects the proposed changes to he Code may have on he business values and property values along the waterfront prior to your committee’s determination of consistency with the LWRP and prior to the village trustees approving and enacting the propped code,” writes Camerino.

 “There is just no difference for the uses that will go on in the harbor right now,” replied Tait. “There is a change for new uses and if new uses come into the harbor they need to go through the special exception process and that is appropriate because the harbor is fully developed and needs that protection.”

Haynes, who noted during the meeting that her employer Patrick Malloy III – a waterfront property and marina owner in Sag Harbor – believed the code was detrimental, and Dr. Halton indicated to Tait they could not second his motion to support the code by shaking their heads.

The trustees will hold a public hearing on the new code today, Thursday, April 16, at 5 p.m.