Tag Archive | "Harbor Heights Gas Station"

Scaled Back Harbor Heights Plan Is Approved by Sag Harbor Planning Board

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A plan for a scaled back redevelopment of the Harbor Heights gas station was approved by the Sag Harbor Planning Board on December 23. Michael Heller photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

A scaled back plan to open a convenience store and relocate the fuel pump islands at the Harbor Heights gas station on Route 114 in Sag Harbor was approved by the Sag Harbor Planning Board at a December 23 meeting.

Planning Board member James Larocca, citing the potential for increased traffic at the site, urged the board to request that the village work with the State Department of Transportation to search for ways to minimize the impact of that traffic.

The plan approved by the board, which will be the subject of a formal resolution at the January 27 meeting, bears little resemblance to a highly controversial plan that was the subject of heavy resistance from the time it was unveiled in 2011 until the village Zoning Board of Appeals in February 2014 denied most of the variances required for it to go forward.

The lone variance approved allowed the convenience store to be built in the locaton of the current office, which is about 15 feet from the front property line, where a 50-foot setback would normally be required.

Under the new plan, a portion of the gas station’s main office will be transformed into a 600-square-foot  convenience store. The number of fuel pumps will be reduced from eight to six and the islands shifted farther from the road and placed under a 15-foot canopy. Two curb cuts will be put in and the perimeter of the property will be landscaped with a 30-foot buffer to separate it from the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Richard Warren, the board’s environmental consultant, said the board should approve the site plan at its next meeting and noted that a hearing on the application, held in November, was a subdued affair unlike the hearings that took place during the original application. “I take that as a view that the village has done its job, There wre were no comments at the public hearing,” he said. “In the past, the place was packed.”

Public Comments on Harbor Heights Directed to Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals

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While the Sag Harbor Planning Board will lead the environmental review of a proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights Gas Station, the public has been encouraged to share concerns or support for the plan through the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals. On Tuesday night, the planning board acknowledged that the plan’s success depends on several variances the project must gain through that board to survive.

Owner John Leonard hopes to demolish the existing 1,874 square-foot gas station and erect a 1,842 square-foot building that will include a 1,000 square-foot convenience store. The new building would be constructed perpendicular to Route 114, connecting to the service station, which Leonard also hopes to expand with a new bathroom and office. Gas pumps would be moved perpendicular to the street to the north side of the property, covered by a 20-foot high canopy. The pumps would also be expanded to four double-sided pumps with eight nozzles.

In addition to planning board approval, the project needs six critical variances to move forward.

Leonard needs a variance to allow the new convenience store building to be constructed 15.6-feet from Hampton Street, where 50-feet is required by village code. The planned height of the store also needs a variance, as does the construction of the fueling station island 23-feet from Hampton Street where 50-feet is required. He also needs a variance to build a 20-foot canopy, which would be five feet over what code allows, as well as a variance to build a 1,000 square-foot convenience store, where the code only allows a 600 square-foot store. Leonard also needs two variances for landscape coverage.

Lastly, the project, as conceived, demands a variance for the expansion of the service station, which is considered a pre-existing, non-conforming use.

Without zoning board of appeals approval of these variances, the project would have to drastically change.

While some neighbors have come out in support and in opposition to the project, according to Leonard’s attorney, Dennis Downes, a number of agreements have been reached to ensure neighbors are satisfied with the end result.

A petition of support with 140 signatures has been filed with the village zoning board of appeals.

On Tuesday, Leonard’s engineer Chris Tartaglia presented plans (also shown to the zoning board) addressing a debate over the size of the proposed store, which, at about 1,000 square-feet, is 400 square-feet larger than allowed by code.

Similar to his argument in front of the zoning board, Tartaglia said the village’s definition of what constitutes retail space is blurry. He argued that while they have taken a conservative approach, including the whole building in their calculations, when spaces used by gas station patrons alone are taken out of the equation, the store falls under the 600 square-foot requirement.

“I own a retail business and in hearing you discuss it, it seems like you are being a little creative pulling out that square footage,” said planning board member Larry Perrine. “My retail store has a certain amount of square footage and I would never consider areas that didn’t hold product not a part of the retail shop.”

Tartaglia stressed that they were not trying to reduce the variance required or “get creative,” but were trying to show the “grey areas” in the code by illustrating how the space would be used.

Village attorney Anthony Tohill countered that the code was clear, demanding that, without a variance, a convenience store as accessory to a gas station is allowed if it is “600-feet of gross floor area.” He added the definition of “gross floor area” encompasses the store’s entire space — wall-to-wall — excluding stairways and cellar storage.

Sag Harbor Village environmental consultant Richard Warren said he was concerned that while the planning board was leading the environmental review that it was critical the zoning board weigh in on some of these issues, even informally, before the planning board can move on. He added that the public’s input was also crucial, and suggested the public bring their concerns to the zoning board so the village can ask Leonard to address them through studies on issues like traffic.

Downes said he would also like to seek the opinion of the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board on existing and as-of-right deigns for the new building, which the planning board agreed to.

“I want to work with you on this,” said Downes.