Tag Archive | "Harbor Heights"

Village Engineer Deems Traffic Analysis & Lighting in Harbor Heights Development Reasonable

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By the time the  Sag Harbor Village Planning Board finishes its September 25 meeting, John Leonard will likely know if his proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station has the potential to cause a significant environmental impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

If Tuesday night’s planning board meeting was any indication, it appears the board is leaning in Leonard’s favor and will give the project a negative declaration in its State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). That would mean the project could move on to the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which must rule on a number of variances required for the project to move forward in its current form. Those variances include the size of a proposed convenience store, which at 1,000-square-feet is 400 square-feet more than what is allowed under the village code.

The Sag Harbor Planning Board will still have to complete its site plan review of the project after the ZBA makes its ruling.

Over a year ago, station owner John Leonard proposed redeveloping the property on Route 114 by demolishing the existing, blue gas station building and putting in a new building, which would host a convenience store. 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.

For months, the village’s planning board has been gathering information on potential environmental impacts the project could pose. At the same time a group of neighbors and the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor have questioned the size of the development project.

On Tuesday night, it appeared the Sag Harbor Planning Board had gathered the last information it would need to assess Leonard’s plans from an environmental perspective, including a rendering showing what the project would look like from the street, more information on traffic, refuse control, petroleum spill mitigation, sanitary calculations and lighting.

At issue in the board’s assessment of traffic are conflicting traffic analyses — one from Leonard’s team at Stonefield Engineering and one submitted by neighbors opposing the project who contracted a traffic analysis from the Texas-based DeShazo Group. While Stonefield’s report showed a minimal increase in new traffic, the DeShazo Group report showed a far higher increase in traffic.

According to Tammy Cunha, an engineer with P.W. Grosser, the village’s engineering consultant, the difference between the two reports is that while Stonefield assessed traffic on the Harbor Heights property as traffic associated with a gas station that has a small store, DeShazo used estimates for the addition of a convenience store as a primary use with gas pumps as an accessory function of the business.

“The DeShazo report is not using the proper classification code,” she said. “No matter how we run the numbers it falls below the 100 car increase needed to make this an environmental impact situation.”

Noting there is a 7-Eleven in Sag Harbor Village, Cunha said she believes, as Stonefield suggests, passerby traffic is the type that will be coming into Harbor Heights if it is redeveloped, rather than it becoming a destination for drivers.

According to Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, the lighting plan has also been drastically reduced on the project to a minimal level of lighting. One light per service bay is planned as are the use of LED lights, which gives the station control over lighting levels. All lighting is Dark Skies compliant, added Warren, and the light spread will actually be smaller if the project moves forward than the lighting on the property is now.

“One of the senses of the community, what the community doesn’t want, is what you see on Route 27 – bright green, bright orange, bright yellow plastic signs to attract attention,” said board member Larry Perrine. “I think by reducing the lighting and not presenting signs of that kind, I think they have accomplished a lot to make it not like that and make it something much softer, which is a good thing.”

The board is expected to straw poll whether or not to give the project a negative declaration on September 25. Leonard hopes to be before the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals in November.

No Fireworks at Harbor Heights Hearing

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A highly anticipated public hearing on a proposal to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station in Sag Harbor and add a convenience store on the Route 114 parcel drew just a handful of residents to the Municipal Building on Tuesday night. Despite email blasts and newspaper articles alerting the public about the forum, just one neighbor spoke up at the hearing, asking the board to address a specific issue that could affect his property.

As Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren explained at the beginning of the hearing, this forum was conceived specifically to ask residents to weigh in on the village’s environmental review of John Leonard’s proposal, not to bash or praise it in general.

There will be more public hearings on the project, not just in front of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board, but also when the application is formally heard by the village’s zoning board of appeals and its historic preservation and architectural review board (ARB).

Leonard has proposed a full re-development of the Harbor Heights property, which will include the addition of a convenience store, as well as a new layout for gas pump islands, more pumps and new curb cuts to make the station safer to enter and exit. A second business that operates on the parcel —the Sag Harbor Service Station — will also be slightly expanded under the plan to allow for a small office and bathroom.

New landscaping, lighting and a new parking configuration are also proposed.

The project has been supported by some, and rallied against by others, but on Tuesday evening there was little in the way of discussion about new issues the village could explore in its environmental review.

According to a report drafted by Warren, the planning board will explore drainage and impacts from waste products from the automotive repair side of the businesses on the property, as well as the size and scale of Leonard’s proposal. It will also look at traffic, parking, impacts to neighboring residential properties in terms of noise and the expansion of commercial activity on the site, as well as whether the size of the convenience store is appropriate.

Leonard has proposed a store that totals 1,600 square-feet in total size, although the convenience store itself comes in around 1,000 square-feet. The village code prohibits convenience stores over 600 square-feet and Leonard will need a variance from the zoning board to ultimately be approved for the store he has proposed.

Landscaping, lighting and the overall aesthetics of the project will also be looked at.

“So the planning board already has a fairly extensive list before them,” said Warren. “This hearing is to see if the public has anything else they would like to see on that list.”

Neighbor Michael Butler said he was concerned with the placement of a dumpster which will be held in a shed on Leonard’s property directly behind Butler’s home on Eastville Avenue.

Butler said he was worried about the noise that would come with employees removing trash to the dumpster and any vermin that may be attracted to the vessel.

“I would prefer the dumpster be relocated on the property so it does not affect my residence or any other residences,” said Butler, adding the Harbor Heights property should be large enough to comply with his request.

Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes said he would look at the issue and will bring any changes to the board at its February 28 meeting.

Meeting on Harbor Heights Proposal Rescheduled

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The date for the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board’s highly anticipated public forum on a proposal to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 has been re-scheduled. This came after the village discovered the board would not have a quorum for all applications slated for the Tuesday, January 24 meeting.

The planning board has instead moved the meeting to Tuesday, February 7, where it will convene with a work session at 5:30 p.m. and enter its regular meeting at 6 p.m.

The planning board has asked the public to weigh in on its environmental review of John Leonard’s proposal to re-develop the dilapidated gas station and service station, creating new curb cuts, relocating gas pumps deeper into the property and creating a new convenience store on the site. The forum, noted Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren at last month’s planning board meeting, is not meant to bring people to the podium to discuss whether or not they like the project, but rather to make sure the planning board is addressing all potential issues.


Traffic & Size of Proposed Market Drives Harbor Heights Discussion

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Would the expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station, including the addition of a convenience store, increase traffic on Route 114 in Sag Harbor to the point where it would have a negative impact on traffic flow on a road surrounded by residential neighborhoods?

According to Charles Olivio, a traffic engineer with Stonefield Engineering and Design, while the redevelopment of John Leonard’s service station will increase traffic, based on industry standards that increase will not be large enough to result in a significant adverse impact.

Olivio, a consultant hired by Leonard, presented his findings at a November 22 meeting of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board. The planning board is in the throes of reviewing Leonard’s application for site plan approval and a special exception permit to allow him to redevelop the Harbor Heights property. Included in that re-development is the inclusion of a convenience store on the property, as well a new layout for the gas pump islands, and new curb cuts to make the station safer to enter and exit.

During the planning board meeting, Olivio said he came to his conclusion after conducting an investigation into the existing traffic patterns at the gas station during peak morning and evening hours of September 16.

Olivio said based on the existing traffic at the gas station, it appears people are using Harbor Heights on their way to, or on their way home from work or another destination. Based on that, Olivio said the convenience store would likely draw in existing traffic, not create new traffic where people are making a special trip just to use the market.

“We would have an expectation of some modest increases in demand with a new site being brought up to standard with added fueling positions and the store,” he said.

According to Olivio’s report, on a weekday morning, about 27 cars enter or exit the site during rush hour. That number increases to 55 when the summer season is factored into the equation. During evening peak hours, about 44 cars enter or exit the gas station, the figure increasing to 89 in season.

If the property is redeveloped, based on industry standards, Olivio said during morning rush hour — not in season — the station could see about 81 cars exit or enter the property. In the evening, that would jump to 110. The increase of cars coming in or out of Harbor Heights in the morning would be about 54, he said, and in the evening the station could see an increase of about 66 vehicles entering or leaving the property.

However, Olivio notes that this would not be new traffic on Route 114, but rather the store drawing in more of the existing traffic. Of the additional trips expected at Harbor Heights, only 10 in the morning and 15 in the evening would be vehicles new to the roadway, according to Olivio’s report.

Based on the industry standards, the numbers are almost 50 percent lower than the threshold for what would require a more extensive analysis of traffic impacts related to the Harbor Heights project, said Olivio.

During holiday weekends, Olivio added, the station would expect an increase in traffic.

“But you don’t create a parking field at a mall fitting for Black Friday or Christmas,” he said.

Village attorney Denise Schoen said she would like to see an analysis of what the traffic impact would be if the Harbor Heights property were redeveloped as is — without the convenience store.

Board member Greg Ferraris agreed.

“It would be to your benefit to show that there would not be an increase in traffic as a result of the convenience store,” he said.

While Olivio said that data was in his report, the table only shows the increase in vehicle traffic if both the gas station and market are developed.

The planning board also continues to grapple with the proposed size of Leonard’s store. While the village’s zoning code was rewritten to allow convenience stores as an accessory use to a gas station, it required that the convenience store only be 600-square-feet or less. Leonard’s is a 1,000 square-foot store.

Outside of the 1,000 square-foot store, the structure would also include a restroom, a stairway down to the cellar, a utility closet with a sink and an area for the gasoline attendant.

In addition to planning board approval on this issue, one of the several variances Leonard needs to move forward with his plans addresses whether or not he can increase the size of the store.

Board member Larry Perrine said he was unaware that some parts of the structure were not being included in the calculation of the store’s square-footage.

Leonard’s attorney, Dennis Downes, said this was one of the reasons this aspect of the application is before the zoning board of appeals.

“One of the concerns inside the community we are hearing — that will eventually show itself when we have a public hearing — is the scale of the convenience store and the potential intensity of the use and its affect on the community,” said Perrine.

He wondered how the zoning board would review that.

Schoen explained the planning and zoning boards will have their own standards they will have to follow, but within those standards the impact to the neighborhood would be explored.

The environmental review of the project by the planning board, added Schoen “will force you to look at some of the critical areas, like the impact to the neighborhood.”

Neighbors & Save Sag Harbor Question Harbor Heights Expansion

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A group of neighbors filed a petition with the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board Tuesday night with 90 signatures calling John Leonard’s proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 “too ambitious.” They are asking the village to ensure that the expansion, and its appearance “preserve the heritage of Sag Harbor Village.”

At the same meeting, local non-profit Save Sag Harbor filed another letter with the planning board questioning whether or not the addition of a convenience store on the Harbor Heights property is even permitted as an accessory use under village law or if it constitutes the creation of a second, principal use on the property.

Leonard has proposed to demolish the existing 1874 square-foot Harbor Heights gas station building and construct a new 1,842 square-foot country market and cellar. He has also proposed to expand the second business that operates on the property — the Sag Harbor Service Station — by adding just over 300 square-feet to accommodate a bathroom and office.

In a recent change, Leonard has decided to connect the new Harbor Heights market to the service station and reduce the building’s overall height in an effort to reduce the number of variances needed by the village zoning board and to increase landscaping throughout the property.

Gas pumps on the property are proposed to be moved perpendicular to the street, covered by a 20-foot high canopy. According to Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes, Leonard has decided to stop selling diesel fuel on the property and will remove a stand-alone, above ground diesel fuel tank during the course of renovation.

Downes said removing the sale of diesel fuel from the property would eliminate an average 1,000 truck trips to the station a year.

According to Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, while the planning board will study general environmental issues related to the project, it is lighting, landscaping and traffic — the issues that directly affect neighboring property owners — that the board will have to take a critical look at during its review.

Sag Harbor Planning Board Chairman Neil Slevin said that he was surprised that the final plan Leonard has submitted shows what he called 1,200 square-feet dedicated to the convenience store. The village code prohibits a store larger than 600 square-feet, and Leonard will have to earn a variance from the zoning board of appeals to build a larger market.

“So the size of it is a major concern for us because we understand when the village code was amended that the size was specified because the community, through the board of trustees wanted to make sure that the neighborhood would not be affected,” said Slevin.

Slevin said he would like to see what the anticipated revenue stream from the convenience store is, as that would relate directly to any increase in business expected when the project is completed.

Board member Larry Perrine said he would like clarity from the village about how the board is supposed to calculate square-footage, whether they are looking at the gross floor area or just the sales area of the store.

Downes said he has attempted to get that very answer from Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt, but has been unsuccessful as there is not a specific definition in the village code. He added that Leonard could not go through financially with the project if he is only allowed to construct a 600 square-foot store, which would leave him with one sales aisle.

“The economics of the store should not be driving the economics of the fueling station,” warned Warren, noting the store is supposed to be an accessory use, with the gas station driving the majority of revenue in the business.

While board member Greg Ferraris said the current plan is certainly better than what could be done as of right on the property, he questioned a study submitted by Leonard that said traffic would not increase if the project was constructed. He called the study “disingenuous” and said the addition of an overall 1,800 square-foot store “will certainly have an impact on traffic.”

Board member Jack Taggliasacchi said he doesn’t believe the store will be the driving force of traffic at Harbor Heights and that it would only be used by people who are at the station for gas.

Perrine countered that having the store on the site could drive traffic to Harbor Heights because of that amenity.

Before the matter was closed, Jackie Brody served the planning board with a letter from Save Sag Harbor asking the board to explore whether including a market on the property would be tantamount to allowing a new principal use, not a small accessory use. The organization cited the size of Leonard’s proposed market, noting the code specifically prohibits a market over 600 square-feet as an accessory use at a gas station.

Save Sag Harbor’s board of directors also asked that the planning board demand an environmental impact statement in the course of its review, noting this project does carry the possibility of causing a serious adverse impact to the environment.

Joy Lewis and her neighbor Ki Hackney Hribar, Hampton Street residents submitted the petition with 90 signatures questioning the scale of the project and calling on the village to protect a historic neighborhood.

“We are asking the planning and zoning boards to resist the pressure to allowing anything that resembles the sort of bold, over-lighted service station with a busy convenience store, big bright lights and an enormous sign that one sees on major highways, and, most importantly that the boards be guided by the intentions of the existing village code,” said Lewis and Hackney in their letter.

Leonard also has a petition running, from some neighbors as well as area residents supporting the project with between 150 and 200 signatures, according to Downes.

Local Stories On Irene

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By Claire Walla

By midday last Saturday, August 27, Main Street in Sag Harbor looked almost abandoned.  Though a smattering of shoppers and diners continued to mill about, many storefronts were boarded up with plywood (a first for most), or else covered with adhesive tape.

All were preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

In the height of her projected force here on the East End, at one point Irene was expected to cut a path straight through Sag Harbor, bringing winds that topped 100 miles per hour and rains that would fetch up to 10 inches of water.  While the tropical storm didn’t quite bring the devastation many in here Sag Harbor expected, her presence on Main Street was certainly felt.  Here are some of the stories from last weekend’s tropical storm.


Schiavoni’s Market

Food has been flying off the shelves at Schiavoni’s IGA Market. Unfortunately, owner Matt Schiavoni said it’s partially been a bit of a purge.

Last Friday, customers waited in long lines behind carts piled high with enough food to get them through the storm. The market sold 50 cases of water last Thursday, and at least 100 cases on Friday, Schiavoni said.

But by Monday, Schiavoni was piling food into the dumpster out back. He even had to call in a second bin.

Without electricity in the wake of Irene, the Sag Harbor IGA lost all frozen and perishable foods, like meat and dairy products. (Judy Schiavoni even trolled Main Street on Monday handing out ice cream for any and all takers.)

When all was said and done, Schiavoni said the damage really couldn’t have been any worse. Aside from the building sustaining physical damage, which he said fortunately it didn’t, “all the damage was caused when the power went out.”

An inventory was kept of every item tossed into the dumpster and will be recorded as an insurance claim. Meats and deli items were delivered on Wednesday. And when Schiavoni’s gets its next shipment of ice cream this Friday, the store will be up-and-running, just as it was a week before.

No More D Batteries

Emporium True Value Hardware Store

In the midst of shuttered storefronts and taped-up windows, Emporium True Value Hardware was an anomaly this past weekend: it looked the same before and — thanks to milder winds than originally predicted — after Irene came to town.

But inside, in the days leading up to the storm owner Frank D’Angelo said he sold-out of “D” batteries, flashlights and radios. Business was bustling Friday morning, as dozens of shoppers looked for amenities to prepare for Irene.

“It was absolutely insane,” said an employee. “At least a dozen people were waiting outside before we opened at 7:45 a.m.”

Signs were posted in at least three locations in the store informing customers that “D” batteries were out of stock.  And employees continually informed inquisitive customers that the store was also out of flashlights.

“We’re literally selling key-chain flashlights,” the employee said. Emporium True Value was also sold out of lanterns, lamp oil, radios and 6-volt batteries.  “Those were the first to go,” he said of the 6-volts.

Anticipating a flurry of returns on unused items, the store posted a hand-drawn sign near the battery display last week informing customers that batteries could not be returned. By Tuesday this week, it had been moved to the front counter next to the register.

However, D’Angelo said the store did not see any batteries back in its midst.

“Not a single one,” he confirmed.


Our Gig Too, Taping Inside adjusted

Our Gig, Too


As she stretched beige-colored masking tape across the length of her store’s front windows last Friday, Denise O’Malley of Our Gig, Too worried about the destruction Irene might bring. She said she was headed to the store’s basement next to move all merchandise to higher ground, in anticipation of flooding.

But Irene brought little of that.

Though her store was still “half-with-half-without” power by Tuesday afternoon, all in all O’Malley said the village was lucky.

“Everyone was expecting some water to come” with the storm, she said. But, like most businesses on Main Street, she said her shop suffered little damage.

“It looks like we prepared for nothing,” she continued. But …when you think of all the disasters we’ve seen recently — like Katrina and the tsunami in Japan — it seems like anything’s possible.”

O’Malley took a moment before continuing.  “If we had a tsunami…” she trailed off for a moment more. “We’d have no place else to go.”


Harbor Heights adjusted

Harbor Heights


Last week, Harbor Heights Gas Station hit “record breaking” sales.

That was what owner John Leonard declared on Friday as a steady stream of cars flowed through the station. Thousands of East End residents flocked to gas stations across the East End to fill up their tanks as a precautionary measure in preparation for the storm.

On Friday, Leonard said his station had been so busy, in fact, that “I’ve been working here for the past two days, non-stop!”

He added that the station received two truckloads with 9,200 gallons of fuel on Saturday and Monday to replenish the station’s stock. While the Getty station on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike ran out of fuel late Thursday afternoon, Leonard said he was ready for the barrage of vehicles that remained constant at Harbor Heights through Saturday.

“We were prepared,” he affirmed. Having been through several hurricanes in Florida himself, Leonard anticipated the gas-pump rush.  “I had my orders in on Tuesday for the week.”

The end of the week saw multi-car lineups at gas stations in East Hampton and Southampton, prompting 20-minute waits in some spots and even verbal altercations between drivers.

Leonard said there had been none of that at his gas station. Though he did add that one man stirred up a bit of trouble Friday when he tried to jump the line of cars; however, the situation was abated before the gloves came off.


Wedding

Still wearing her wedding gown — with a pair of orange high tops — when she arrived at the bar of The American Hotel last Saturday night, the sight of Debbie Hunekan and Carl Brandl, her tux-clad groom, was particularly surprising.

Despite the dire weather predictions, Brandl and Hunekan, who came to the hotel after tying the knot, decided to go through with their Saturday evening ceremony — which concluded just hours before the first winds set in.

“The wedding was supposed to take place on Long Beach,” Hunekan said this week.  “We called Judge Eddie Burke and he said, ‘I don’t think that’s going to happen. Long Beach is covered in water.’”

So the show moved south, to Hunekan’s mother’s house in Water Mill.

And while the couple had the perfect backdrop for a memorable occasion — they made their wedding song “Come Rain or Come Shine” and switched the evening’s cocktail to a Dark and Stormy — Brandl said the most touching part of the evening was seeing friends and family come together to keep the ceremony alive.

Friends stepped in to cater when the company they hired backed out; and, even though he had canceled all other events for Saturday, Hunekan said Steve Clark of Sperry Tents kept their wedding canopy in place for the duration of the evening.

Of their 90-or-so invited guests, 85 of them showed up.

“That made it all the more meaningful,” Brundl continued. “That they still came.”


Library

On Monday morning, though the John Jermain Memorial Library was open for business, the light streaming through the windows of its temporary home on West Water Street was the only light patrons had to read by.

On Wednesday, director Cathy Creedon beamed at the prospect she was able to open the library so soon after the storm, and was even more pleased at the number of patrons who stocked up on books beforehand.

On Monday, Creedon pointed to the practically empty new fiction stacks and said, “It looks like the battery section of the hardware store.”

But last Friday, Creedon nervously watched as adhesive flashing was placed on the roof of the historic JJML building on Main Street in preparation of the storm. Leaks at the building have grown over the last two years. While the library nears approval to move forward with restoration and expansion, each storm that arrives before the project is completed has the potential to damage the structure further.

Before the storm, Creedon said the library also removed from the exterior of the structure scaffolding that has been in place since 2006 to protect patrons from the crumbling façade. Library staff noticed the wood holding the scaffolding in place had rotted and worried that the storm could wrench it loose, creating a hazard.

On Monday, Creedon said the dome did not appear to show signs of more leakage, however a leak in the stairwell to the third floor rotunda had grown larger and the library’s terra cotta roof was also showing signs of water infiltration, a “grave concern” for the library board.

However, on Monday, Creedon remained happy that the library was still providing service.

“We will probably close when the angle of the sun no longer shines into the building,” she said late Monday afternoon.

“Yeah, like after its dark,” library circulation director Pat Brandt added wryly.


boats packed adjusted

Boats

Usually at this time of year, the Ship Ashore Marina boat yard is a dusty expanse that curves along a few hundred feet of Sag Harbor Cove.  While boats tend to come in and out of the water at regular intervals, they’re either stored in a massive shed on the property or tied up to the dock near the shallow shore.

Hurricane Irene changed all that.

“They’re packed like sardines!” one boat-owner exclaimed last Friday as he walked through the yard.

According Gayle Pickering, whose husband Rick owns Ship Ashore Marina, boat crews pulled about one boat every 20 minutes and ultimately pulled precisely 60 boats last Thursday, August 25, bringing the total number of land-bound vessels to roughly 170.

By Wednesday of this week — after the storm brought milder conditions than originally predicted — Rick Pickering said he was exhausted.

“Everyone’s walking around with stars in their eyes!” he exclaimed, noting that he and his crew had already put 126 boats back in the water since Monday. There are approximately 14 that will stay grounded, but he said he’s still got about 25 to go until Ship Ashore is back to basics.

Harbor Heights Sales Have “Broken Records” In Lead-Up To Storm

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Harbor Heights adjusted

That was what Harbor Heights gas station owner John Leonard declared yesterday, August 26 as a steady stream of about a dozen cars flowed through the station.  Thousands of East End residents have flocked to gas stations in the last couple days, filling up tanks as a recommended precaution in the lead-up to Hurricane Irene, which is expected to hit Long Island full-force tomorrow, Sunday

The station has been so busy, in fact, Leonard said on Friday “I’ve been working here for the past two days non-stop!

He added that the station received a new truckload of 1,9200 gallons of fuel today, Saturday, and has already scheduled another 1,9200-load to replenish the station’s stock on Monday, after the storm is expected to have left the East End.  While the Getty station on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike ran out of fuel late Thursday afternoon, Leonard said his station was ready for the barrage of vehicles that has remained a constant at his station.

“We were prepared,” he said.  Have been through several hurricanes himself in Florida, Leonard anticipated the gas-pump rush.  “I had my orders in on Tuesday for the week.”

The tail end of the week saw multi-car lineups at gas stations in both East Hampton and Southampton Towns, subjecting some drivers to 20-minute waits to get to the pump, and prompting others into verbal altercations with other drivers.

Leanoard said, as of Friday, there have been no known altercations at his gas station.  Though he did say one young man nearly stirred up a bit of trouble Friday morning when he tried to jump the line; however, the situation was abated before the gloves came off.

Neighbors Protest Harbor Heights Expansion

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By Kathryn G. Menu


As a former member of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, Tiffany Scarlato was intimately involved with the revision of the village zoning code, which, in part, allowed gas stations to open convenience stores as an accessory use under fairly strict guidelines.

Armed with that knowledge, and as a neighbor of Harbor Heights Gas Station on Route 114, at Tuesday’s Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Scarlato came out in opposition to a plan to expand the gas station by adding a 1,000 square-foot convenience store.

The Sag Harbor-based attorney charged that the property’s owner, John Leonard, has the ability to build a convenience store within the limits of the village code and questioned how the zoning board could grant variances to allow the project to move forward.

Scarlato was not alone. She was joined by Harbor Heights Gas Station neighbor Michael Butler, as well as Save Sag Harbor President Mia Grosjean, who both questioned the size and scale of Leonard’s plans.

The Harbor Heights expansion has been before the village planning board for several months. Leonard hopes to demolish the existing 1,874 square-foot gas station building and erect an 1,842 square-foot building that will include a 1,000 square-foot convenience store on a re-configured property.

The new building would be constructed perpendicular to Route 114, connecting to the service station a second business on the property, which Leonard also hopes to expand with a new bathroom and office.

The Harbor Heights gas pumps, which now sit next to Route 114, would be moved to the north side of the property and covered by a 20-foot high canopy, which would be lit with Dark Sky compliant lights. The gas station currently has four fueling pumps for regular gasoline and a diesel pump, but, under Leonard’s proposal, would have seven pumps for regular gasoline and one for diesel.

While the Harbor Heights property is currently open to the road with one large curb, Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes said the New York State Department of Transportation has been working towards the approval of a much smaller curb cut with one entrance and one exit to the property.

Leonard has also proposed landscaping on all three side of the property in order to screen the station from neighboring property owners.

While the village planning board is in the midst of its review of the project, it needs six variances from the zoning board to ultimately be approved.

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 the village code and at a height of 25.5 feet, where 20 feet would normally be allowed.

He also needs a variance to allow the construction of the fueling station island 23-feet from Hampton Street where 50-feet is required by code, and to build a 20-foot canopy, which would be five feet over what code allows.

According to Leonard’s engineer, Chris Tartaglia of Highpoint Engineering, the building would be constructed in the same location as the existing building, and the height would allow it to resemble a residence. The height of the canopy, he added, is to allow fuel tankers access to the pumps.

Turning the building so the short side of the structure faces Hampton Street is an attempt to reduce the visual massing of the building, Tartaglia said.

He added that Leonard has proposed 13 parking spaces behind the buildings, which will not be visible from the street, and said he is flanking the entire perimeter with “dense landscaping.”

Board member Michael Bromberg wondered why the new building was not being pushed to the back of the property, where it would conform to the village code.

Tartaglia said it was possible to build the structure off the back of the Sag Harbor Service Station, but that it would not be as visually pleasing, with the fuel pumps and service station becoming the focus of the property from Hampton Street.

Tartaglia said that if Leonard kept four fueling stations it would not be economically viable, with Downes noting that cars are often lined up in the road waiting to get gas, creating a hazard.

“I do use the gas station and I got to tell you it scares the hell out of me and the people in the village too,” said board member Brendan Skislock.

At Bromberg’s questioning, Downes said the gas station’s current hours of operation, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the off-season and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the summer, would not change once the convenience store opened, and that restriction could be written into planning board approval.

Another variance Leonard needs is to build a 1,000 square-foot convenience store, where the code only allows a 600 square-foot convenience store.

According to Tartaglia, in order to be competitive, Leonard needs the square footage to offer similar goods found at places like 7-Eleven.

Leonard needs two variances for landscape coverage. Tartaglia said the proposed landscape plan was the maximum the property could hold.

Lastly, Leonard needs a variance for the expansion of the service station, which is considered a pre-existing, non-conforming use.

But Scarlato questioned why Leonard could not simply adhere to the code requirements, which she said would still allow for a convenience store on the property.

“There is no reason why the applicant could not put the building on another part of the property,” she said.

Bromberg suggested the board require Leonard to show what he could build as of right on the property.

Butler, whose Eastville Avenue home is adjacent to the gas station, said he “did not relish the idea of looking out my windows and seeing a canopy with lights.”

Butler asked the zoning board to make Leonard adhere to landscaping requirements in the code, adding he was concerned about the overall aspect of “suburban sprawl” the project could create.

Leonard countered he was doing everything in his power to create a residential feel on the property and that his landscaping plan includes planting 16-foot tall trees around the border of the property.

“We are trying to do the right thing,” he said.

Grosjean, representing herself and also Save Sag Harbor, said she was concerned about any project that goes outside the limitations of the zoning code which was created to protect residents of the village.

The Harbor Heights application will continue its review in front of the planning board on Tuesday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m.

Questions Raised Over Harbor Heights Project

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By Kathryn G. Menu

John Leonard’s plans for a new Harbor Heights Gas Station was met with interest by members of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board last week, but a number of outstanding questions remain before the project can be formally reviewed by village boards.

On Tuesday, December 28, Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes gave the planning board its first glimpse at the proposed project, which aims to demolish the existing 1,874 square foot gas station on Route 114 and replace it with a new 1,842 square foot building. Within the gas station, Leonard proposes a 600 square-foot “country market.” The project would also expand the Sag Harbor Service Station, a business owned by Gregory Miller, from 1,245 square feet to 1,595 square feet.

The architecture, by James Laspesa, resembles a home rather than a gas station, said Downes, and will incorporate landscaping into a now shrub-free parcel.

The project will also create a safer entry and exit to the station through a New York State Department of Transportation approved curb cut, said Downes, giving the gas station a formal entry and exit for the first time in its existence.

Gas pumps would be moved off the street to the north side of the property and covered with a standard gas station canopy. If approved the station would have six pumps, as opposed to its current four, however, Downes noted one of the new pumps would take the place of an above ground diesel fuel tank.

One issue that has already arisen is the addition of the canopy. Currently, the station doesn’t have one — meaning attendant Pam Kern must brave the elements to do her job on days of inclement weather.

Downes said Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt has decided to treat the canopy as an accessory structure, while Downes said it is a part of the principal, gas station use.

The canopy, in part, he added, is also designed to allow self-service at the station and Downes said he would request another opinion from Platt.
The project will need a number of variances from the village zoning board of appeals, including one to keep its setback from New York State 114, also known as Hampton Road. Downes will also ask the zoning board if egress to the bathroom, which is through the convenience store, should be included in gross floor area calculations. If so, the market is just slightly larger than the 600 square feet the village code allows.

The village code also limits the height of a convenience store to a maximum of 20 feet, whereas Laspesa’s drawings show the building 25.5 feet in height.
“The problem with this is it makes the building look squat,” said Downes of the 20 foot height.

Once he receives Platt’s determinations, Downes said he will ask for permission to go to the village’s historic preservation and architectural review boards before he comes back to the planning board.

Board member Greg Ferraris noted the gas station use is permitted and pre-existing, and under the new code is allowed to have accessory uses for a repair shop and convenience store.

“Basically we put that in with parameters that ensured this was the only place that could happen,” said Ferraris.

“It’s interesting from a planning perspective because I think it would relieve some of the attention downtown because there would be less people trying to get into the 7-Eleven parking lot,” said board member Neil Slevin.

“This is an essential service building,” added board member Larry Perrine. “There are only two gas stations in the village and both are in appropriate places, exiting the village without too much of an impact on residential neighborhoods.”

Harbor Heights Wants A Market

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harbor heights

By Kathryn G. Menu

The “Queen of 114,” as Pam Kern is affectionately known by those who pass through the Harbor Heights gas station which she manages on State Route 114 in Sag Harbor, may soon have a building more befitting of her title — one where patrons can get a cup of hot coffee or pick up the newspaper and a gallon of milk on their way home from work.

Harbor Heights Fuel Company owner John Leonard has filed an application with the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board to demolish the existing 1,874 square foot gas station and replace it with a new 1,842 square foot building. The new space would boast what Leonard describes as a “country market” with a 600 square-foot display area, an attendant office for the gas station, a restroom, utility closet and access to the station’s cellar.

The project will also expand the Sag Harbor Service Station, a business owned by Gregory Miller who leases space from Leonard at Harbor Heights, from 1,245 square feet to 1,595 square feet.

A new sanitary system will also be installed, with three existing 6,000-gallon underground storage tanks upgraded per the Suffolk County Health Department’s requirements and a new 12,000-gallon underground storage tank added to the system. The additional tank, said Leonard, will allow him to remove an above ground diesel tank and place it in one of the existing 6,000 gallon underground storage tanks without losing the station’s overall gasoline capacity.

New curb cuts creating entry and exit paths to and from the gas station from Route 114, a first for Harbor Heights, are also a part of the development as is a new drainage system, new sidewalks and extensive landscaping.

When completed, in addition to an expanded service station and upgraded gas station with country market, Harbor Heights will boast four fueling islands with canopies, 32 off street parking spaces, a loading space, regulated parking and an enclosed dumpster area, which are all improvements Leonard said will help spruce up an increasingly dilapidated building and property.

Leonard’s application will be before the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board as a discussion item at its Tuesday, December 28 meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Leonard, a former real estate developer and partner in Harbor Cove Realty, is responsible for a number of projects including the rehabilitation of the current Bridgehampton National Bank building on Route 114 and Bay Street, and can also be credited with working with Southampton Town towards the preservation of over 400 acres throughout the town. Becoming the owner of a gasoline station, he said, was never a part of his plans.

“I went into Harbor Heights seven years ago to buy brand new tires,” he remembered in an interview from his Florida home on Tuesday. “I had no interest in buying a gas station. They were in financial straits, so I talked to them about when they wanted to retire and made a deal to buy the station.
Leonard said the decision to expand the station to include a market was purely economical.

“It is really hard to make money selling gasoline,” he said. “We are not on a main highway, so we are not pumping millions upon millions of gallons of gasoline. I have to keep people working, and without this, it just doesn’t work.”

Leonard said despite minor improvements made when he purchased the station in 2008, demolishing the existing Harbor Heights building was not something he really had a choice about since the structure is in such bad shape.

Keeping to the same footprint, Leonard hired architect James Laspesa to design a new building that mirrored the look of a residence rather than a gas station.

The project will also move the Sag Harbor Service Station to the rear of the building and property, creating a cleaner view from the street, said Leonard.
“I think this will be a great improvement,” said Leonard, adding that he expects traffic and hours of operation to be the two issues at the forefront of concerns presented to the village.

Leonard said he has no intentions of seeking a 24-hour market, simply because it doesn’t make sense for that part of the village. He said he would likely seek to keep the market open until 10 p.m. in the winter and 11 p.m. in the summer.
“We are open until 9 p.m. now, so maybe we stay open an hour later so we can clean up,” he said. “If I find the business is not there, I won’t stay open any later than we are currently open.”

Leonard said the project will also be a benefit for Kern, providing a better environment for the Queen of 114, who Leonard said the station would not be the same without.

“She is a fixture at that station and she loves what she does,” said Leonard, who said he is grooming his son to take over the station whenever Kern decides it is time to hang up her hat. “I can’t imagine that place without her.”