Tag Archive | "Harbor Heights"

Planning Board Begins Review of New Harbor Heights Plan

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Several members of Save Sag Harbor urged the Sag Harbor Planning Board on Tuesday to tread lightly as it reviews a new application to redevelop the Harbor Heights service station.

Speaking for the organization, Hilary Loomis told the board that when the village Zoning Board of Appeals granted a variance for the project last February, allowing a portion of the existing building to be converted into a convenience store, it stipulated that the “existing foundation and walls remain.” Now, the property’s owner, Petroleum Ventures, is calling for a new structure with new walls and roof, she said.

She urged the board to refer the matter back to the ZBA because, she said, replacing the building would remove any pre-existing, nonconforming rights that go with the property, which is a commercial use in a residential zone.

The board began its review of Petroleum Venture’s latest application just two months ago. An earlier effort by the company, which is owned by John Leonard, to redevelop the site was highly controversial. Alter years of review before the planning board and ZBA, it was effectively curtailed by the ZBA when that board granted a single variance allowing a portion of the existing gas station to be used for a 600-square-foot convenience store.

In its new plan, besides the convenience store, the company wants to redevelop a garage, office and customer service area, utility and storage room and two restrooms in the 1,855 –square-foot building. A new 1,244-square-foot garage behind the main building would d remain as is. The plans also call for moving the fueling island to a more central location, away from Hampton Street and under a 15-foot canopy. The number of fuel dispensers would be reduced from eight to six, and two curb cuts would be put in to control access to the site. The plans also call for a new sanitary system and the creation of a 30-foot wide landscaped buffer around its perimeter.

“I think they’ve listened to the public and they’ve listened to the ZBA,” said Richard Warren, the village environmental consultant. When it first reviewed the earlier project, the planning board issued a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which means it did not require an environmental impact statement.  “I don’t see any reason why this board wouldn’t adopt a negative ruling for an amended application,” said Mr. Warren. “I’m hopeful the firestorm that was here before has gone out.”

Before the board can proceed, Mr. Warren said the village engineer, P.W. Grosser Consulting, had requested that the plans show that tank trucks as well as emergency vehicles would be able to negotiate the turning radius in front of the station and that the applicant provide information on site disturbance and drainage. The board also requested Suffolk County Department of Health Services approval.

The planning board asked the ZBA, Harbor Committee and Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review to weigh in on the plans last month. Only members of the ARB, who said they were concerned about plans for the canopy and lighting, offered any criticism of the plan.

Planning Board chairman Greg Ferraris said the board would most likely vote to become the “lead agency” on the application, which means it would coordinate its review under SEQRA.

Harbor Edge Condos

Roy Wines, the contractor for the Harbor’s Edge condominiums, which are nearing completion, sought the board’s help in rectifying a problem that has held up the issuance of tax map numbers for the 15 units. The problem is, the village does not have an updated survey showing that the number of units was reduced from a proposed 19 to just 15.

Mr. Wines surmised that the paperwork was not properly updated during the truncated review process, which saw the project come to a halt and a change in both  architects and ownership during the financial crisis.

Doris Alvarez, the board’s secretary, said there was “no documents supporting the change from 19 to 15” units in the file.

But board members were amenable to helping out, with Mr. Ferraris telling Mr. Wines the matter would be resolved as soon as he submitted an accurate site plan.

Harbor Heights Officially Denied by Sag Harbor ZBA

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Harbor Heights. Michael Heller photo.

A car pulls into Harbor Heights. Michael Heller photo.

By Kathryn G. Menu

The Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals officially denied most of the variances needed for John Leonard to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 on Tuesday.

The official determination comes a month after the ZBA in a straw poll approved just one of three variances being considered, effectively ending a proposal to re-develop and expand the Harbor Heights station to include a convenience store without requiring significant revision to the plans.

The Harbor Heights project involves the redevelopment of the gas station and neighboring Sag Harbor Service Station, including the addition of a convenience store, the relocation and expansion of gas pumps on the property, as well a new curb cut to Route 114, striped parking and landscaping.

The lone variance approved for the project by the ZBA was a front-yard setback variance, allowing Mr. Leonard, through his corporation Petroleum Ventures LLC, to construct the retail convenience store in the existing Harbor Heights building, which is 15.6 feet from Route 114 where a 50-foot setback is required under the village code.

At the work session last month, board members—sans Jennifer Ponzini who was absent from the proceedings—agreed the variance should be allowed as it does not change anything from what exists today.

“It’s not self created, I think, because the building is already there,” noted ZBA chairman Anton Hagen.

However, the board was also in agreement that a variance request to reduce the required landscape buffers around the perimeter of the property from 30 feet to between 9 and 19.4 feet, should be denied, calling it the first defense to shield neighbors from the impact of the project. Board members also noted if the size of the project was reduced, the landscape buffers could be larger, meaning it is something that could be achieved without needing relief from the board.

The ZBA also denied a variance to allow the size of the convenience store to exceed 600 square feet. The proposal called for a 718-square-foot store, excluding mechanical equipment, utilities, a storage area and ADA compliant bathrooms.

A variance looking at whether the addition of new fueling pumps would constitute an expansion of the station’s pre-existing, non-conforming status was deemed moot by the board given the denial of the convenience store.

Ms. Ponzini abstained from voting on Tuesday’s determination, with the remainder of the five-member board in agreement on all the variance decisions.

Following last month’s meeting, Mr. Leonard’s attorney, Dennis Downes, said he would defer comment until a final determination was made and only after he spoke to his client. Mr. Leonard has 30 days to apply to the ZBA with scaled back plans for the project. He can also file a lawsuit challenging the ZBA’s decision.

In other ZBA news, on Tuesday the board tabled an application from Charles Susi of Madison Street to allow for the construction of a 14-by-28-foot swimming pool in the front yard. Variances were also requested to allow the pool within 17 feet of the front lot line, where 35 feet is required and 5 feet from the east side lot line where 15 is required.

Planner Matt Ivans, with Suffolk Environmental, argued because the property was on a corner lot and was undersized, his clients were faced with a hardship. When asked by village attorney Fred Thiele, Jr. whether he had been able to uncover any previous cases where the ZBA allowed a pool in the front yard, Mr. Ivans said no.

“I have a general reluctance to granting variances for swimming pools,” said board member Tim McGuire, adding that was particularly true when a pool was proposed to be just five feet from a property line.

“I don’t have an issue giving variances for pools,” said board member Brendan Skislock, “ but we are opening up a can of worms granting it for a front yard.”

“The problem is once we put one in the front yard, we have put one in the front yard,” agreed board member Scott Baker.

Mr. Ivans agreed to talk to his clients and return for the board’s March 18 session.

Also tabled to that meeting was Jennifer Tierney’s application for a swimming pool on Madison Street. Ms. Tierney is requesting variances from the village’s wetlands code to allow for the pool, which is within 47.2 feet of the wetlands, where 75 feet is required.

Chairman Hagen asked that Tierney’s pool plans be scaled back.

Sag Harbor ZBA Work Session on Harbor Heights Project Rescheduled for January 16

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A Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) work session, originally scheduled for Friday, January 10 at 2 p.m. has been rescheduled for Thursday, January 16 at 2 p.m.

The work session will specifically cover the variance application of John Leonard, who is asking the ZBA for three variances to redevelop the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 in Sag Harbor.

The application has been before the village boards for three years and has been met with substantial opposition, including from hundreds of residents who have filed letters of protest with the ZBA and the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board during the course of the review.

The Sag Harbor ZBA must determine whether or not it will grant Leonard’s variances by its Tuesday, January 21 meeting, which will begin with a work session at 6 p.m.

Sag Harbor ZBA Considers Harbor Heights Variances at Work Session

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By Kathryn G. Menu

With one of the largest, and most contested, proposals since the condominiums at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory on the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) agenda, last Thursday, village attorney Denise Schoen and chairman Anton Hagen called the board together for a work session.

The goal of the session was to help board members wrap their brains around the application to allow for the expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114.

“My goal is just to make sure the board knows what the variances are and what the legal issues are,” said Schoen, noting there may be some unresolved legal issues that could pose a problem for John Leonard’s application.

Leonard is proposing a 1,842 square foot building, with a 972 square foot convenience store within it. Several areas, where goods are not visible, including the bathroom, have not been counted towards the square footage of the store. Four pump islands with eight fueling positions are proposed under a canopy, as are two new curb cuts into the property, 32 parking spaces and new landscaping.

Specifically, Schoen referred to some of the initial arguments made by Jeffrey Bragman, an East Hampton attorney representing Save Sag Harbor, which has joined a large group of neighbors in opposition to the plan.

Most of the time, ZBA applications ask for an area variance to allow something that dimensionally is against the code to proceed on a property, noted Schoen. A use variance authorizes a land use not normally allowed on a property and carries such a high burden on the applicant it is rarely given.

At last month’s meeting, Bragman argued that the replacement of a sign in a new location, as well as the expansion and relocation of gas pumps on the Harbor Heights property, should require Leonard to seek a use variance from the board.

“My greatest concern is the number of pumps,” said Schoen on Thursday. “It would be very interesting to see what the argument would be on both sides.”

Schoen said the ZBA will also need more information on the proposed sign before it can weigh in on that variance, including what it will look like.

Schoen added that the ZBA will also be tasked with defining what the village code intended when it regulated the size of a convenience store to 600 square feet. In 2009, the village code was rewritten to allow filling stations to have convenience stores.

“In no event shall a convenience store exceed 600 square feet of gross floor area for the display of goods for retail sale,” is the exact wording in the village code.

Leonard’s engineers have argued that within a total 1,842 square foot building, just 972 square feet should be considered part of the convenience store because that was the area where patrons could reasonably view and take retail goods from the store.

However, last month Bragman argued that was not the intent of the village when it drafted that law. He noted under the definition of “filling station” in the village code it states a station may include a convenience store “of 600 square feet or less.”

“When analyzing the variance for the store we are not making a decision on whether or not it is allowed to be there,” cautioned Schoen, noting it is the size the board must consider.

“This code section was very strongly worded,” she added. “It has a lot of language here that seems to draw a line in the sand.”

However, said Schoen, the legal system does provide the right to seek relief from a ZBA, regardless.

Schoen asked that both Bragman and Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes make sure to provide all of their arguments in writing, including supporting case law, to aid the ZBA in their decision.

Bragman will continue his arguments at the ZBA’s March 19 meeting and it is expected Downes will counter some of his arguments. The public at large, added Schoen, has had little time to comment on the case and will also likely want to be heard before the ZBA can close its public hearing and move into deliberations.

Special ZBA Harbor Heights Work Session Slated for Thursday, February 28 at 2 p.m.

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Today, Thursday, February 28 at 2 p.m. the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will meet for a special work session to discuss the proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station on Hampton Road in Sag Harbor.

While the meeting is open to the public, only members of the ZBA will be permitted to speak. A public hearing on the Harbor Heights application will continue at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on March 19.

Harbor Heights Service Station owner John Leonard is proposing a 1,842 square-foot building, with a 972 square-foot convenience store within it. Several areas, where goods are not visible, including the bathroom, have not been counted towards the square-footage of the store.

The service station building will also be expanded slightly. Four pump islands with eight fueling positions are proposed under a canopy, as are two new curb cuts into the property, 32 parking spaces and new landscaping.

Leonard needs eight variances from the ZBA, including for the height of the canopy, for setbacks for the building as well as the fuel pumps, for landscape buffers and for the size of the convenience store.

The not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor, along with a number of neighbors and residents, are opposing the plan, primarily citing the size of the expansion.

Sag Harbor ZBA Meeting on Harbor Heights Draws Crowds, Contention

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Town Meeting Harbor Heights

By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Laurie Barone-Schaffer

Close to three hours was devoted to an application before the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) at a meeting which ended just after 10 p.m. Tuesday. It was a harbinger of meetings to come on what has emerged as one of the more controversial development applications in recent years.

Tuesday night marked the first public hearing on John Leonard’s proposal to demolish the Harbor Heights Service Station and redevelop the property to include a convenience store.

The project has been in front of the planning board for over two years. On Tuesday Leonard’s attorney, Dennis Downes, and two engineers made their first pitch to the ZBA on why they believe Leonard should be granted relief from the village code to construct the project.

The meeting was cut short by the board and tabled until next month’s meeting on February 19, but not before a handful of residents spoke in protest of the application, including Rev. Kenneth Nelson of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Conference of New York which oversees the nearby church.

He said not only were church officials opposed to the project, but also say they were never informed of the proposal.

Nelson, from Oyster Bay, noted he is a descendent of Lewis Cuffee, who built the Sag Harbor AME Zion Church in 1840. He questioned why the church conference was not notified about this application.

Village attorney Denise Schoen noted that because it is a religious institution, there was no way for the applicant to track down an address for the church on tax rolls.

“I am not saying that is right or wrong,” noted board member Michael Bromberg.

“We will be protesting our feelings of the sale of alcohol so close to the church,” said Rev. Nelson, adding the village should also anticipate issues associated with a store so close to the schools drawing children down a heavily traveled road.

“And they will go there because a convenience store is where they can get a hold of everything they want,” said Rev. Nelson. “It will be a hang out for youth that have nothing else to do and we are against that environment.”

Rev. Nelson spoke after a presentation that lasted over two hours by Leonard’s team.

In his opening, Downes noted while the property is zoned residential, it has operated in a commercial fashion for over a century, starting in the 1900s when Jim McMahon operated a sand mine at the site.

“This is an antiquated and out of date facility that needs to be upgraded to remain a viable business,” said engineer Chris Tartaglia.

Leonard is proposing a 1,842 square-foot building, with a 972 square-foot convenience store within it. Several areas, where goods are not visible, including the bathroom, are not counted towards the square-footage.

The service station building will also be expanded slightly. Four pump islands with eight fueling positions is proposed under a canopy, as are two new curb cuts into the property, 32 parking spaces and new landscaping.

Tartaglia said the reasoning for this kind of development is tied to the evolution of the gas station business. He blamed increased fuel economy standards for vehicles for bringing down profits, as well as the increase in leased cars in decreasing the demand for small service stations.

Convenience stores, he added, are a way to bridge the gap.

Average profit on fuel is $0.04 per gallon, said Tartaglia, quoting a report from planning board member Larry Perrine, as opposed to $0.40 for a can of soda.

Tartaglia noted he believes the code, which details the setback, landscaping and size requirements for a convenience store as accessory to a fueling station, was not written in a way that would allow Leonard to develop the property.

For example, Tartaglia noted the code requires a limited height on accessory structures of 15 feet, when the bottom of the canopy measures 14 feet to accommodate fuel delivery trucks. There is no way, he said, to include the necessary fire suppression equipment in less than a foot.

Leonard needs a variance from the ZBA for the 23.75 foot canopy and its height.

Tartaglia also said the 600 square-foot limitation on store size was unique on the East End and an arbitrary figure.

The proposal needs a variance for a front yard setback of 50 feet for the store building, where 27.2 feet are proposed and also a setback variance for the canopy, which is proposed at 23.2 feet.

It also needs a variance for its landscape buffer, proposed between nine and 20 feet as opposed to the 30 feet required on all sides of the property under the code.

Tartaglia said this would significantly reduce what is possible on the property and noted they plan to use dense evergreen trees.

They also need a variance for overall landscape, which is proposed at 30 percent as opposed to the 35 percent required by code.

Tartaglia said achieving 35 percent is not possible. He added just one-percent of the property is currently landscaped.

They also need a variance for a freestanding sign just two feet from Route 114 where 20 feet is normally required.

“I am not certain how many of you would pull into a station if there was not a sign telling people how much they are charging for gas,” said Tartaglia.

He declined to give further details about how the sign would be illuminated, but Schoen said the board would need that information to make a decision.

Likely the most critical variance Leonard needs is for the size of the store, which is capped under the code at 600 square-feet.

Tartaglia argued without “a complete product offering” at the store, Leonard could not make a reasonable return on his investment.

He said the economic impact of reducing the store to 600 square feet would result in nine coolers for beverages, as opposed to 11; 26 linear feet of retail counter space, as opposed to 80 linear feet and 18.7 feet of equipment counter length as opposed to 35.2 feet.

Bromberg questioned the 972 square-foot size of the store, noting wall-to-wall the building is upwards of 1600-square-feet.

“I guess it is up to us to make that interpretation,” said Bromberg.

Traffic engineer Charles Olivio said he has never worked on a project involving a gas station where cars fuel in the right of way, as is currently the setup at Harbor Heights.

“Its atypical and dangerous,” he said.

Based on his studies, Olivio says he believes a large amount of new traffic will come from existing traffic on the roadway, with one new vehicle every four to six minutes expected as a result of the project.

That could amount to a 40 percent overall increase, argued chairman Anton Hagen.

“What is important to us — and of course that is different than what is important to you — is to look at the impact on that increase to the community,” said Hagen.

“The goal is to provide a modern site, products and amenities,” said Olivio, adding he believes it will increase the safety of the site and that a new car every four to six minutes at peak hours is not a significant increase.

Anita Rainford, president of the Azurest Homeowners Association, which has been joined by a number of homeowner associations off Route 114 in opposing the project, said studies should also include allowances for bikers, joggers and walkers.

She also questioned the noise study, wondering how it was possible such an expansion would not result in an increase in noise. A lighted canopy, she added, would certainly increase the light emanating from the property.

Save Sag Harbor, which has also opposed the project, was represented by attorney Jeff Bragman, who said that group would speak at length at the February 19 meeting.

When over 40 people stood in response to who in the room was opposed to the project, Downes snapped, “Zoning is not about numbers. You could have 1,000 people in here and it wouldn’t matter.”

Sag Harbor Village Building Department Flooded with Letters in Opposition to Harbor Heights Expansion as ZBA Meeting Draws Near

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Over the course of the last month, over 40 letters have been filed with the Sag Harbor Village Building Department about the Harbor Heights Service Station expansion plan, which will be before the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), next Tuesday night.

And not a single one supports the project.

For over two years now, John Leonard’s proposal to redevelop his property on Route 114 has been before the Sag Harbor Village planning board. However, with nine variances needed from the Sag Harbor ZBA — including one allowing Leonard to build a convenience store with almost twice the square footage allowed under the village code — it is really that board which holds this project’s fate in its hands.

Since it was proposed, the project has drawn its share of critics, including neighbors and the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor. Since just before the December ZBA meeting — when the application was originally to be heard before it was tabled at the request of the applicant— opposition has snowballed.

Over 40 letters have been filed with the building department in the last month against the project and a petition of over 100 signatures (and still growing) collected by the Azurest Property Owners Association joins an original opposing petition of over 230 signatures already filed with the building department last year.

According to Anita Rainford, president of the Azurest Property Owners Association, a number of residents — including many throughout the Azurest, Eastville, Ninevah, Chatfield Hills and Sag Harbor Hills communities — fear the project will not only bring a larger commercial entity close to their communities thereby threatening their quality of life, but also that it could harm the historic character that makes Sag Harbor, and these neighborhoods so special.

On Tuesday, Rainford noted the village spent the better part of two years rewriting its village code, which included restrictions on the size of a convenience store as well as required setbacks, in an effort to preserve its charm. At the gateway to Sag Harbor, what Rainford called a large gas station development, certainly threatens that, she said.

“We didn’t move to East Hampton,” she said. “We didn’t want slick and savvy. We wanted nice, local, quaint. This is a location that directly borders the historic neighborhood of Eastville, and it does seem a little bit like a slap in the fact to the residents there who have kept their homes in line with historic architecture.”

If approved, Rainford said she also fears the precedent a project like this could set for future applications.

Route 114, she added, is already a very busy roadway, particularly in the summer months and Rainford said she has very real safety concerns associated with it getting busier if a new convenience store is opened along what is considered a critical entryway to the village.

“I don’t know any other residential community that would want this plopped in their backyard,” she said.

Rainford is not alone.

Many of the letters addressed to the ZBA about the Harbor Heights project came from residents in Ninevah, Sag Harbor Hills and surrounding communities.

“I feel that permitting these variances will be a huge mistake,” said Nancy French Achenbach, president of the Sag Harbor Historical Society. “The building code was rewritten with great thought and care to enable Sag Harbor to maintain the integrity deserved such a historic village. Allowing these variances to pass will make Harbor Heights a much bigger project and out of scale for one of the entrances to Sag Harbor. The site abuts the historic AME Zion Church.”

Michael Butler, a neighbor who has attended virtually every meeting regarding the Harbor Heights proposal, has long opposed the project.

“My position has been a consistent one, and that is that no variance be granted for this project, specifically in regard to any reduction in the required 30 foot landscape buffer as outlined in our current village code,” writes Butler. “Thirty feet should be a starting point to increase, not reduce, the landscape buffer.”

“Please protect the character of Sag Harbor and the integrity of zoning codes, by applying all building size, setback, landscape, and other requirements as written in code,” writes Stephen Roache, president of the Ninevah Beach Property Owners Association. “These requirements protect the community, and should not be minimized for private or corporate gain.”

“Please do not let this service station violate the zoning laws and make the entrance to Sag Harbor a brightly lit highway filling station,”writes artist Donald Sultan. “We have a rare and lovely village that is rather unique. Why keep finding ways to undermine what makes your and my little spot on earth great?”

The Queen of 114 Steps Down

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By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller

Pam Kern, affectionately known as the “Queen of 114” from her decades long helm at the Harbor Heights Service Station in Sag Harbor, resigned from her position on Saturday morning following a change of ownership at the gas station.

Her resignation prompted Harbor Heights neighbor Kristina Gale to create a Facebook page in honor of Kern, where many residents lamented her departure, and wished her the best. But others used the space to lash out at the new owner of the station, Greg Miller, who has owned the adjoining Sag Harbor Service Station since 2009 and was tapped by Harbor Heights owner John Leonard to take over the station.

According to Leonard, the change in ownership of the gas station will not change ownership of the Route 114 property and he will continue to move forward with a proposal, now before the Village of Sag Harbor, to incorporate a convenience store at the gas station.

On Monday, both Leonard and Miller stressed that Kern was in no way let go from the position she held for over 30 years, but that it was a choice she made when Miller was unable to meet her demands about salary and hours.

“I didn’t expect anyone to pay her what I did,” said Leonard. “Truth be told, I didn’t make any money pumping gas there. It was natural for Greg to take over and I warned Pam for months there was going to be some kind of change at the station.”

“No one was looking to hurt Pam,” he said.

“This is not what I wanted,” added Miller. “It would have only benefitted us to have Pam stay on. I have done everything I can.”

After declining comment on Monday, on Tuesday morning, Kern said she was devastated by the turn of events, mostly because she did not find out for certain what was happening until Friday, when a county representative brought new paperwork detailing the new management at the station.

Kern said she was only officially informed on Saturday about the change in ownership, and not by Leonard, but Miller. After she discovered her hours and pay would not be what Kern felt she needed to continue to support herself, she said she left, only to return later to pick up her things.

“I don’t know what I am going to do,” she said on Tuesday. “I am just trying to get my house together right now. I haven’t really been home for four years. I put my heart and soul into that place.”

Kern was pleased so many had reached out to her, at home and via Facebook, to wish her well.

“Everyone has been so kind and supportive, I really appreciate it,” she said.

On Monday, Gale said while some comments turned nasty on the Friends of Pam Kern Facebook page, she only intended it to be a place for residents to show their care for a woman who pumped gas for them and told them stories for decades.

“I just wanted her to know a lot of the community cares for her, because I don’t think she even realizes how important she has been,” said Gale. “She has supported the Wounded Warriors, the food pantry and so many others. I wanted her to know she was appreciated.”

“Pam, I hope your future is as bright and fun as you are,” wrote Eileen Hurley. “You are the best!”

“Pam delighted our children and grandchildren for years as she waved enthusiastically in her Easter Bunny costume as we passed the station,” added Louise Green.

“When I first moved here and got lost every time I went to Sag Harbor this woman could not be nicer giving me directions and it always took me aback because it was so unexpected,” wrote Laura Perotti. “And the girls just loved she was a woman working in a gas station. We need more nice people!”

Sag Harbor ARB: Harbor Heights Country Market Looks Good

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By Kathryn G. Menu

From an aesthetic perspective, it appears the proposal to expand the Harbor Heights service station to include a convenience store has the support of the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB).

On Thursday, November 8, ARB members said they liked the proposal, although the board will not formally sign off on the project until it earns 10 variances from the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals — variances that are necessary for the project to move forward as currently planned.

The Harbor Heights application was slated to be heard for the first time by the Sag Harbor ZBA at its November meeting next Tuesday, November 20. However, according to ZBA secretary Lisa Koehne the attorney representing the project, Dennis Downes, has asked the application be adjourned until the board’s December 18 meeting.

Under the limited liability corporation Petroleum Ventures, Harbor Heights owner John Leonard has proposed redeveloping the property on Route 114 in Sag Harbor by demolishing the existing, blue gas station building and putting in a new building, which would host a convenience store. The existing Sag Harbor Service Station business will also be reconfigured and expanded under the proposal.

A new layout for gas pump islands, more pumps and new curb cuts to make the station safer to enter and exit are proposed in Leonard’s plans, as is new landscaping, lighting and parking configuration.

The project has drawn the ire of some neighbors, as well as the not-for-profit organization Save Sag Harbor. Both groups have questioned specifically the size of the convenience store, which as proposed is over 1,000 square feet where a 2009 code revision only allows convenience stores as accessory businesses to gas stations in Sag Harbor Village if they are 600 square feet or smaller.

According to Leonard’s engineer, Chris Tartaglia of High Point Engineering, the convenience store building, which will also serve as a space for the gas station attendant and storage, is actually 1,842 square feet. However, Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt has determined that approximately 1,000 square feet of the building is actually dedicated to the convenience store meaning Leonard only needs to obtain a variance for 400 square feet of store space.

On Thursday, Tartaglia said that the service station layout will remain virtually the same, although the bay doors facing the interior of the property will be closed and covered with inoperable barn doors as an architectural element. The new entryway to the service station will be relocated to the other side of the building to reduce noise, said Tartaglia.

The country market, as the convenience store is being referred to, will be built from scratch after the existing, Harbor Heights gas station building is demolished. It will be built directly next to the service station to give the appearance there is one building on the property when in fact there are two, with different rooflines to break up the massing of the structures, said Tartaglia.

The buildings will be clad in wood and traditional glass Anderson windows will also be used, he said, with white trim.

The gas station canopy, added Tartaglia, will have the same brown standing seam hip roof to tie architecture on the property together.

Leonard has also proposed two signs — one above the store and a small, low, monument style ground sign at the entrance of the gas station.

Overall, said Tartaglia, the design of the new facility moves the gas islands into the property and turns the gas pumps as well as the store so the main uses on the site are occurring in the interior of the property, rather directly on the roadway, as the gas station currently operates.

“It’s fine by me,” said board member Tom Horn, Sr., to the agreement of the others.

Sag Harbor Planning Board Looks at 125 Main Street, Provisions & Harbor Heights

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By Kathryn G. Menu

It has been almost three years since local real estate developer James Giorgio proposed to raise and rebuild the historic commercial property at 125 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Now, with a public hearing on the project scheduled for next month, it appears an end and an approval are finally within site.

On Tuesday, October 23 the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board heard a presentation on the project from Giorgio’s architect, Chuck Thomas.

The project involves removing two additions off the rear of the building facing Church Street, lifting the remainder of the building and putting a new foundation under it. The building, constructed sometime in the 1750s, has basically no foundation to speak of and is sitting in dirt. After the new foundation is installed, Thomas said the plan is to reframe whatever is necessary within the historic structure and restore the building, removing aluminum siding and replacing it with wood, restoring the windows and building a new, wood roof.

The additions which would be removed in the beginning of the process would be rebuilt in kind, added Thomas.

The building will continue to host a retail use on the first floor, with an apartment on the second floor.

“We are going to make it look like it should look,” said Thomas.

The project has tentatively received two variances from the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). One allows landscaping of 16.62 percent of the property as opposed to the 20 percent required under village code and the other allows the inclusion of eight parking spaces where nine are required in the code.

The ZBA, however, was not amenable to allowing Giorgio to construct the second floor apartment at just 564 square-feet where a minimum of 800 square-feet is required. On Tuesday, Thomas said the apartment would meet code.

Thomas said he hoped to get started on construction this winter. A public hearing on the project will be held at the board’s November 27 meeting.


   Accessory Apartment Approved

On Tuesday night, Juan Castro became the third Sag Harbor resident approved for an accessory apartment since the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees first adopted a law in 2009 allowing a maximum of 50 residents to legalize apartments within their primary residences.

Apartments must meet building and fire codes and the Suffolk County Health Department must also sign off on the apartment, meaning applicants must show they have an adequate septic system to handle the increase in density.

The 650 square-foot apartment is located in the bottom floor of Castro’s Brandywine Drive residence.

   Provisions Expansion Stalls

While Provisions Natural Foods Market & Organic Café has already received planning board approval to expand partially into the adjacent space most recently used by the Style bar, it has approval to do so sans approximately 200 square-feet of the Style bar space. If Provisions uses that space it will officially expand beyond 3,000 square-feet, which under the village code triggers the requirement for a market research study on the necessity of expanding the store as well as consideration of providing some kind of affordable housing relief.

In order to avoid those requirements, Provisions’ attorney Dennis Downes secured the company approval for an expansion, walling off that 200-square-foot space. But after gaining planning board approval, Downes approached the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals for relief from the market study, which he estimates will cost $10,000, and the affordable housing provision, which would allow Provisions to expand into the full 777 square-foot space.

While the ZBA was amenable to the idea in September, this month Sag Harbor Village Attorney Denise Schoen said she does not believe the ZBA has a right under the village code to offer that kind of relief. Schoen said case law permits the ZBA to grant area variances — those that deal with physical space like a setback — but not variances for other requirements for a special permit.

Downes is reviewing that case law and the matter will be revisited at the ZBA’s November 20 meeting.

Lastly, John Leonard’s proposal to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station to include a convenience store was formally given a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). That proposal will now move into the hands of the ZBA, which will ultimately decide the fate of the project, ruling on close to half a dozen variances including one that will allow Leonard to construct a store almost twice the size of what is allowed under the village code.

That proposal will also be discussed at the ZBA’s November 20 meeting.