Tag Archive | "Bulova Watchcase Factory"

Sag Harbor ARB Tables Application for New Windows at In Home

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The owners of In Home on Main Street are reconsidering an appeal they made to the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) to allow them to replace three second-story windows with aluminum clad wood windows similar to those recently erected in the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

Owner John Scocco said he would talk to his partner, David Brogna, about the application after a prolonged conversation with the ARB last week. During that discussion it was revealed the board does not believe it formally signed off on the aluminum clad windows at the former watchcase factory, and similar windows approved at 125 Main Street were an oversight by the board.

Last Thursday, Scocco came back before the board for a second time to discuss the appeal, which looks to overturn a previous decision denying the use of aluminum clad wood windows in a second story window replacement project.

Scocco argued the very same windows have been used in the luxury condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory — a historic building in the historic district. The same windows have also been used at 125 Main Street, a renovated historic building, although last month the ARB met with building owner Jim Giorgio in an effort to get him to replace those windows with wood windows. That discussion was left open ended after Giorgio requested he be allowed to replace four second story windows with two picture windows, a concept not viewed favorably by the ARB.

“Dave and I care a lot about Sag Harbor,” said Scocco. “We care about the historic integrity of the village.”

Scocco said it was only when they realized aluminum clad windows were approved for not one, but two historic district projects, that he and Brogna decided to revisit the issue in light of the cost of maintenance and eventual replacement of wood windows.

“Truly, four years ago there were a lot of details that were left very open ended and vague and that were going to be addressed moving forward,” said Brown of the ARB’s Bulova approval. “I have no recollection of us saying this is the window.”

Tom Horn, Sr., the only other member of the board sitting during the Bulova review, agreed, noting he would bet nothing could be found in the minutes showing the ARB signed off on those windows, or any synthetic materials for siding. Synthetic roof material was discussed by the ARB for the townhouses in that development project.

“125 Main was a complete and total lapse,” added Brown, noting it could have been as simple as the ARB not dictating that the windows in that building would need to be replaced in kind in its approval.

“I think we have an issue here,” said Brown. “We have approved a major project with 1,000 windows and another project … what grounds do we have to say no to three, second story windows.”

“We can appeal to you and say we don’t want you to do that and set any more precedents, but I don’t feel we can say, ‘No, you can’t do that’,” added Brown.

Village attorney Denise Schoen disagreed.

“If the approvals for the Bulova Watchcase and 125 Main were truly oversights or you lacked sufficient details to understand what you are approving, it doesn’t set a negative precedent you have to follow for the next 100 years,” said Schoen. “When we talk about precedent, we talk about when an applicant comes in, you examine what they are presenting and say, ‘that is appropriate for Main Street. That is appropriate for the historic district.’”

“I understand what the applicant is saying and I feel for both of you, but I just want to make the distinction it is not a legal precedent that has been set,” she continued.

If challenged, a court could state it did not believe the ARB did not intend to allow synthetic windows. Schoen said she would comb through the Bulova file.

“So I understand where you are coming from and I felt bad denying you because this is something that slipped through the cracks,” said board member Penni Ludwig.

If it were not for these two oversights, added Ludwig, Scocco and Brogna would have replaced their windows with wood.

“You can make a stink and fight it and I understand your feeling,” said Ludwig, “but I am trying to look at it that this is a mistake and it will snowball and we won’t have a leg to stand on.”

Board member Christine Patrick wondered if the ARB approved Scocco and Brogna’s appeal would they then be setting a precedent for the historic district as they would knowingly be agreeing to allow aluminum clad windows in downtown Sag Harbor.

Schoen said yes.

“I am worried about that,” said Patrick.

Scocco said he respected the ARB and wanted to talk to Brogna about the application. He added some historic districts do allow these kinds of windows.

“That is where I am stuck because I don’t necessarily believe it compromises the integrity but I understand it is not what you want,” he said.

Brown noted the ARB has been open to some synthetics in the historic district. The ARB was the first in the nation to approve the use of photovoltaic shingles in a now moot application for the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church building on Madison Street.

“This board is trying to be open and go with the flow,” said Brown. “Windows are the soul of the house.”

Schoen added that because the village code asks the board not to allow synthetic materials, any decision that does so could theoretically be challenged as it would be a decision that goes against village law.

“I respect everyone here,” said Scocco, asking the board to table the application while he talks to his partner.

In other ARB news, the board sent a letter to the village boards including the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees asking for a zoning code amendment to change the front yard setback in Sag Harbor to 20 feet, down from 30 feet.

The idea, said Brown, is 20 feet is a setback that is in keeping with homes in the village.

The next Sag Harbor ARB meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, November 25.

Deal Secures Luxury Condos at Former Bulova Watchcase Factory

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Financing for the condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory may be secured sometime in the next two weeks, according to Cape Advisors project manager David Kronman. That news came on Tuesday night after the firm was granted changes to its 2008 approval by the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board.

Among the changes to Cape Advisors approval was an amendment to its payment schedule of over $2.5 million to the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust in lieu of providing on-site affordable housing. Three years ago, this was one of the most hotly debated issues during the project’s review by the village.

Citing economic turbulence in the period since the project was approved, last month Cape Advisors founder Craig Wood asked the planning board to consider changing the payment schedule. He requested that his firm be able to make payments to the trust in equal increments following the closing sale of each of the 65 units within the condo project.

The planning board originally required Cape Advisors to pay $582,600 into the trust upon receipt of its building permit. Following the first payment, $194,200 was to be paid when the developers received certificates of occupancy for the first five units, and the same amount each time they received a certificate of occupancy for the 10th to 15th units.

According to planning board chairman Neil Slevin, after Wood’s request last month, the village and Cape Advisors renegotiated the payment schedule.

“I think I am speaking for all of the board when I say this was not a completely easy decision to make,” said Slevin on Tuesday night. “We were all concerned.”

Slevin said board members were hesitant to subvert the creation of the housing trust fund, but at the same time did not want to put the Bulova project at risk. Last month, Wood said that after failing to find financing for the project for over two years, changing the affordable housing payment schedule was crucial to move the project forward.

In the new agreement, the planning board agreed to allow Cape Advisors to pay $582,600 to the housing trust in five equal payments of $116,520 at the closing sale of the first five condominium units. A second payment of $194,2000, in equal payments of $38,840 would follow with the sale of the next five units and the remaining $1,747,800 would be paid in 54 equal payments of $31,778.18 upon sale of the remaining 55 units.

The village will be allowed to accrue interest on the first $582,6000 upon the issuance of a building permit for the project at two points above the 10-year treasury rate as of the first of each year, with the principal sum reduced after each payment. For example, after the first payment of $116,520, the principal balance the village will be able to charge interest on will be $466,080.

Cape Advisors will be prohibited, under the planning board’s resolution, from transferring each unit’s certificate of occupancy to the new homeowners without making payment. Additionally, the housing money will now be protected by a covenant, which will run with the land should the firm sell the property, until the full $2.5 million has been paid to the trust.

Cape Advisors was also given exemption from providing a crossing guard at the now closed Stella Maris Regional School, unless that school is reopened, and will only need to provide either a bond or letter or credit to the village before beginning construction.

“I think everyone views this as a reasonable alternative,” said Slevin.

“Certainly, the amount we are asking for is the same plus we are getting interest on the money and the covenants we are implementing at this time secures the payments,” said planning board member Greg Ferraris. “And we are not jeopardizing the approval in any way.”

In addition to the village creating a formal liaison committee to work with developers as construction begins, Slevin said Mayor Brian Gilbride has agreed to hire a professional engineer to work on behalf of the village to ensure the project is completed to satisfaction.

The Bulova Watchcase Factory restoration and redevelopment is for a 65-unit luxury apartment building in the historic factory building and seven townhouses, which will contain 16 of the units. A recreation center, with indoor pool, and an underground parking facility is also planned for the project, which estimates have shown could cost nearly $100 million to complete.

Bulova Project Getting Back on Track

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It has been three years since Cape Advisors was given final approval by the Village of Sag Harbor to construct luxury condominiums at the historic Bulova Watchcase Factory. Following approval, the economy tanked, lawsuits were filed over the village’s approval of the project and for the better part of two years the watchcase factory has sat shrouded in scaffolding, with little word on whether or not the project would resume.

On Tuesday night, at the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board meeting, Cape Advisors founder Craig Wood announced the condominium project could move forward as early as this fall, but only if the planning board allowed three changes to its approval of the development, including when Cape Advisors must pay over $2.5 million into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.

Without almost immediate approval of these changes, given the turbulent economic worldwide forecast of recent weeks, Wood questioned whether or not this opportunity would pass by both Cape Advisors, and the village at large.

The Bulova Watchcase Factory restoration and redevelopment is for a 65-unit luxury apartment building in the historic factory building and seven townhouses, which will contain 16 of the units. A recreation center, with indoor pool, and an underground parking facility is also planned for the project, which estimates have shown could cost nearly $100 million to complete.

The factory building, which for 100 years operated as the industrial heart of the village under a number of company banners until its doors were closed in the early 1980s, has remained dormant for over 20 years, although a few have tried, and failed, to redevelop the site. The property, located at Division and Church streets, is a state Superfund site. Remediation is ongoing and required for the apartment project to move forward.

On Tuesday, after years of not having the financing to move forward with the project, Wood said his firm hoped “to close with a new lender in early September and start construction this fall.”

“We are very concerned with moving this along quickly given the state of the world,” added Wood, noting his company needs a few of the 70 conditions in the village’s approval of the project altered in order to secure financing for the project.

The first issue, said Wood, is the request that Cape Advisors change the payment schedule for the $2,524,600 it agreed to pay into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust in lieu of on-site affordable housing, easily the most debated issue during the planning board’s review of the project.

Following the affordable housing debate, and a requirement the village ultimately overrode by the Suffolk County Planning Commission for 20 percent on-site affordable housing in the project, the planning board required Cape Advisors pay $2.5 million into the newly created Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust. That organization would then use that capital to start affordable housing efforts within the Sag Harbor School District.

In the planning board’s resolution approving the Bulova condominiums, it required Cape Advisors pay $582,600 into the trust when it is issued its building permit. Following the first payment, $194,200 must be paid each time the developers receive certificates of occupancy for the first five units, and the same amount each time they receive a certificate of occupancy for the 10th to 15th units.

Wood said his firm would instead propose that payment to the trust be made with each closing sale of the 65 units.

“And this is required for our loan as well,” said Wood.

Wood also asked that the planning board’s requirement for a liaison committee — made up of planning and architectural review board members, as well as police and the building department — be assembled immediately.

Wood said his firm would also like to post bond, but not the second letter of credit, as required by the village for projects of this scale to ensure their growth, performance and the maintenance of sidewalks.

Lastly, Wood asked Cape Advisors not be required to have a crossing guard stationed at the cross walk to the Stella Maris Regional School across from the Bulova site, given the school is closed. If it reopens, Wood said the firm would reinstate the crossing guard requirement.

Planning board member and former mayor Greg Ferraris, who was also one of the founders of the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust along with the new village attorney Denise Schoen, said that both he and Schoen have formally resigned from that board to avoid a conflict of interest. Stacy Pennebaker remains the committee’s president.

According to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, the housing trust will be asked to work closely with the Long Island Housing Partnership in implementing affordable housing in the village, once it has the funds to get off the ground.

On Tuesday night, Ferraris added that he and Schoen both agreed that their input into the evening’s discussion should be kept minimal.

Board member Jack Tagliasacchi said he believed everyone on the board realizes “the economy is very, very bad.”

He said he believed changing the affordable housing payment schedule, as well as the crossing guard requirement, made sense, but that he would like the village’s attorney to review the request before the board formally adopts a resolution regarding bonds.

“I think as a part of the deliberation process we have to think about the implications to the applicants, the financial environment has already changed, but we also have to think about what it means to the village,” said planning board chairman Neil Slevin, adding he was uncomfortable voting on the measure that evening.

Tagliasacchi agreed.

“I know you have been waiting very long, and so have we,” he said.

Wood countered that while he understood the village’s position, during the two years it took to gain village approval for the Bulova project, his firm lost two financiers.

“With the instability of the world today, we want to close as soon as possible so we can build this project,” said Wood, imploring the board to schedule a special meeting before its September 27 meeting to weigh in on Cape Advisor’s requests.

“We are concerned with that building as much as you,” said Tagliasacchi.

Slevin said the village would immediately form the liaison committee and the board was comfortable waiving the crossing guard requirement, but that in relation to bonds and affordable housing needed legal counsel.

Schoen added the planning board could in fact hold a special meeting if they so desired.

“The bank wants to move forward and they don’t want to wait a month,” said former attorney for Cape Advisors and Sag Harbor resident Dennis Downes. “I think all of us would like to see this project come to a conclusion.”