By Kathryn G. Menu
This summer, patrons of the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor are poised to be treated to water views as the library staff is getting ready to transition to a temporary space on Long Island Avenue. According to JJML director Catherine Creedon the space will likely open in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
On Tuesday, Creedon excitedly noted that the move has potential to open up the library to new patrons in Sag Harbor given its close access to the business district and post office, which is directly across the street from the transitional space. More importantly, it will allow the library to begin repairs to its historic Main Street building, stabilizing the existing library this summer while the library board awaits approval to begin a restoration and expansion project that will more than double the size of JJML. Those approvals are needed from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and Sag Harbor Village’s Harbor Committee and Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board.
On Friday, May 13, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced that the library has been awarded $137,667 public library construction grant. This money will help fund the major, phased exterior stabilization project that is a part of the library’s restoration.
According to Creedon, the state has recognized in the grant offering that this year will be the first of a multi-year project to stabilize the library’s roof, dome and lay light.
“This opens the door for us to apply this year and next year for future library construction grants,” she said on Monday.
According to Thiele’s office, the grant funding comes from $14 million in capital funds earmarked in the 2010 state budget for public library construction projects. In a release issued on Friday, Thiele noted that libraries across the state are in dire need of restoration and renovation.
More than 40 percent of the over 1,000 public library buildings in New York are over 60 years old, said Thiele. Another 30 percent are more than three decades old. A recent survey, he said, showed a documented need for public library construction and renovation projects totaling more than $2.5 billion statewide.
In addition to this state grant, Creedon said the library also received a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities. That grant paid for Laura Hortz Stanton, the director of preservation services for the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, to come and assess the needs of JJML’s historic collection. Specifically, she will address how the library can stabilize the collection, pack it and what kind of facility it should be stored in while the library is in this period of transition.
Unlike the current library, once the expansion is completed at JJML, the new library will feature a state-of-the-art archive for historic materials.
The library has also collected private donations to help with the expansion. In 2009, voters in the Sag Harbor Union Free School District agreed to pay almost $10 million towards the restoration and expansion of JJML. At that time, Creedon and the JJML library board promised to fundraise $2.5 million in additional monies for the project. Creedon said to date the library has already collected around $600,000 through grants, direct donations and pledges.
In the meantime, on Tuesday, Creedon said the library will likely close for almost two weeks starting Monday, June 20 while the move from JJML to Long Island Avenue takes place.
“It’s a beautiful space,” she said. “All the public spaces look out over the water and it is filled with beautiful, natural light. We have carved out a teen and children’s space, a small seminar room for our English as a Second Language and writing classes, and we will have public computers, so all of the services of JJML will be there.”
Southampton Town Adopts PDD Reforms
Last week, the Southampton Town Board adopted reforms to its Planned Development District, or PDD, legislation, according to a press released issued by Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s office.
A PDD is a zoning tool that allows the town to overlay zoning in favor of a project otherwise not allowed on a parcel or several parcels of land in return for the project sponsor promising to deliver “community benefits” as a part of their application. Examples of that benefit might be affordable housing or the preservation of open space.
“Land use policy is perhaps the most important responsibility we have as town board members because the manner in which our community is developed informs every aspect of our way of life, from traffic to taxes, environmental health to economic sustainability,” said Throne-Holst in a statement. “The PDD tool — which has enabled many very large scale developments throughout the town ‘— has been a source of intense public controversy for more than a decade, and was the number one issue community members urged me to address when I became supervisor.”
The changes resulting from the PDD legislation reform include increased public participation, including a pre-submission public hearing in lieu of what now is a pre-submission work session for applications, meaning the public does not have the ability to weigh in on a proposal. Town CACs will also be guaranteed a place on a PDD oversight committee, which will be established for the life of each project.
Early referrals from the department of land management to advisory boards, like the planning board, for each PDD application are also required under the new law. In addition, time lines have been established to ensure project sponsors follow through with the community benefits they promise in a timely fashion.
Developers also must show in their initial applications how their project fits into the planning goals of hamlet where they are seeking to develop a project. They must also describe how their project is consistent with or will improve community character and what the project’s cumulative impact will be in relation to other developments within a hamlet.
A hamlet specific list of allowed community benefits will also be developed and regularly updated by the town.
A full list of the changes is available on the town’s website at http://www.southamptontownny.gov.
“Our overarching goal in revising the legislation was to create a more predictable process that would result in projects that fit well with the surrounding community and offer adequate, hamlet-specific community benefits in exchange for the opportunity to development a property in a unique way,” said Throne-Holst. “We’ve also included a requirement to review the status of pending PDD projects and the legislation itself on a regular basis to ensure it continues to work as well as possible.”
Library Officially Approved by Zoning Board
On Tuesday night, the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals officially granted the John Jermain Memorial Library 10 variances to allow the library to move forward with plans to double the size of its Main Street facility with an over 7,000 square-foot modern addition.
The variances will enable the library to seek its final approvals from the village, namely from its Harbor Committee and the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board, both of which are expected to take up the application next month.
After the library receives nods from those agencies, all that will stand in the way of the restoration and expansion project is approval by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services for a new on-site septic system.
In other ZBA news, Josh and Irina Siegel were denied a variance to construct a six-foot high driveway gate at their 175 Hampton Street residence. The village code only allows four-foot gates and fences. Board member Anton Hagen, citing the Siegel’s desire to protect their young children front entering the busy roadway, voted against the denial. Adrienne and Dennis Quinn were granted a variance to allow them to keep a roof at their 20 Hillside Drive residence. The roof was in violation of the village’s pyramid law. Lastly, Arleen Auerbach was given several variances to legalize the construction of a deck, stairs, patio, stoop and addition to her 18 Franklin Avenue property.