Tag Archive | "parking"

Sag Harbor School Board Will Move Forward With Smallest Parking Lot Option for Pierson

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At its April 23 meeting, the Sag Harbor Board of Education voted to pursue option 3, the smallest of the parking lot reconfiguration choices, and to fill in the tree wells on the Division Street lot with 10 parking spaces. Plan courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

At its April 23 meeting, the Sag Harbor Board of Education voted to pursue option 3, the smallest of the parking lot reconfiguration choices, and to fill in the tree wells on the Division Street lot with 10 parking spaces. Plan courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

By Tessa Raebeck

After a contentious April 23 meeting, the Sag Harbor Board of Education voted to move forward with the smallest of the parking lot reconfiguration options for Pierson Middle-High School. Their choice, option 3, will add 11 spaces, one in the Jermain Avenue lot and 10 by filling in the Division Street lot tree wells.

Since a bond proposition for capital projects that enabled the district to redesign the lots was passed in November, the board has spent several months listening to concerns and demands of Sag Harbor residents, district architects and even the village police department.

Many residents who voiced concern, predominantly members of the group Save Sag Harbor and neighbors of Pierson Middle-High School, worried the parking plans would discourage walking and alternative modes of transportation, encroach on the green space of Pierson Hill and fail to meet the primary goal of ensuring students’ safety.

The original parking lot proposal approved in November called for an increase of seven parking spaces at the Jermain Avenue lot, which would have resulted in 46 spaces total.

When residents came forward to protest the parking plans just prior to the vote, the district assured them the plans were “conceptual schematics” that could be altered after the bond was passed.

Larry Salvesen, the district architect in charge of crafting the capital project plans, devised three alternative options and presented them to the board and public March 25.

Option 1, closest to the original plan, proposed a total of 44 lined parking spaces at the Jermain lot, an increase of five spaces. Option 2 was slightly smaller with 38 total spaces.

At an April meeting, the Educational Facilities Planning Committee voted to recommend option 3, the smallest option, to the board.

Eight of the 11 committee members in attendance were in favor of option 3, which provides the district with a net gain of just one parking spot.

The plan has 30 total spaces in the Jermain lot, three spaces that could be constructed in the future and five spaces for on-street parking if permitted by the village. Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano made it clear at last week’s meeting that he would not support using the five on-street spaces, which are on village property.

“I’m totally against that,” Chief Fabiano told the board. “If you’re looking for additional parking on the street, that will not happen.”

Mr. Salvesen said the asphalt presence would increase by about 5 to 8-percent under option 3 and that two trees would need to be relocated. The plan addresses safety concerns by eliminating the backup of cars onto Jermain Avenue and providing safer access for emergency vehicles. Like the other options, it would add a sidewalk on Jermain Avenue along the length of the hill with crosswalks at the entry points.

Community members Carol Williams, Rob Calvert, Gigi Morris and Caroline Fell, all vocal throughout the parking lot process, voiced their support of option 3 at the board meeting.

“It’s safe and it preserves the hill and the history and the ecology,” Ms. Morris said.

“I’m not going to argue about the parking lot ’cause everybody wants number three,” Chief Fabiano said. “I’m just kind of disappointed in the whole process.”

“It was my impression when I voted on this that we would get some increase in parking spaces,” he added, saying the community is “spending a lot of money” for a parking lot redesign that won’t actually solve the need for more spaces.

Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said there is a need for more staff parking, but the district needs to be “very, very sensitive…to the front hill.” Option 3, he said, appears to be the best choice in finding that balance.

For the vote, the board divided option 3 into two choices: one that would gain an additional 10 spots by filling in the tree wells at the Division Street lot and one that wouldn’t.

“My concern,” Ms. Morris said, “is, assuming you go with lot 3, there’s been talk of kind of in exchange, we’ll take out all the tree wells. I would just urge you to be cautious about that, I think it will be dramatic.”

The tree wells have no living trees; the ones that were originally planted there died after their roots hit the nearby asphalt.

“I am strongly for option 1 and strongly against option 3,” said board member Susan Kinsella. “I was on the board in 2006 when Chief Fabiano told us we needed to address the parking in the district.”

“I think there’s a small segment of the community that doesn’t want it, but I think there’s a large segment of the community that does. I would never have voted on spending money on parking to not get more parking,” she added.

Longtime board member Sandi Kruel agreed with Ms. Kinsella and both voted for option 1.

“I’m not in favor of making the smaller lot and then just paving over somewhere else,” said board member Mary Anne Miller, voting to pursue option 3 without filling in the tree wells.

Board members Theresa Samot, Chris Tice, David Diskin and Daniel Hartnett voted to go with option 3 and fill in the tree wells to add a total of 11 spots.

In other school news, the board approved a new policy to videotape its meetings and will implement a six-month trial run July 1 through December 31.

Sag Harbor School District Presents Options for Parking Lot Plans, Offers Traffic Safety Solutions for Pierson Drop Off

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Option 1, one of three potential plans for the reconfiguration of the Jermain Avenue parking lot at Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor, as presented to the Board of Education Tuesday. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Option 1, one of three potential plans for the reconfiguration of the Jermain Avenue parking lot at Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor, as presented to the Board of Education Tuesday. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor’s traffic calming proponents and school district officials may not have reached a compromise on parking plans for Pierson Middle-High School, but at least they have some options.

At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, the district’s architect, Larry Salvesen, laid out three options for expanded parking lots at Pierson. Altered from the plan originally proposed in a capital projects bond approved in November, the options aim to address criticisms from members of the community that the parking lots would encroach on green space and drastically disrupt the vista of Pierson Hill.

Proposed revisions to the Hampton Street lot at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Plans courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Proposed revisions to the Hampton Street lot at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Plans courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Plans for the Hampton Street lot at Sag Harbor Elementary School, a considerably less controversial project, have been scaled back and now call for the addition of 15 new parking spaces as opposed to 25. The plan extended the lot toward Hampton Street,  adds an internal circulation route and places crosswalks across the exit and entryway.

At Pierson, there are 112 existing lined spaces. The Jermain Avenue parking lot has 39, the Division Street parking lot also has 39, the Montauk Avenue lot behind the school has 28 and a small administrative lot on Division Street has six spaces.

There are 152 staff members, Mr. Salvesen said, adding there are also spaces reserved for visitors and the handicapped, leaving about 40 employees without spaces.

“Right now, there’s not an issue with faculty parking,” Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said later in the meeting, adding most faculty members park on site and he knows of only two employees who park off site, both by choice. There are also several spaces given to students on a rotating, lottery basis throughout the year, Mr. Nichols said, calling the situation “pretty good from my perspective.”

The existing conditions at Pierson. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

The existing conditions at Pierson. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

“The intent here was to keep the existing counts, improve the safety and if at all possible add a few spaces,” Mr. Salvesen said of the original bond plan, which had the parking lot being  expanded about three-quarters of the way down the northern edge of Pierson Hill.

Mr. Salvesen presented three new options to the board and the community, which will now go to the Educational Facilities Planning Committee, the group responsible for drafting the bond, for its review.

Option 1 is closest to the original plan, but adjusts radii to allow for safer access for buses and emergency vehicles. Buses would load and unload on the side of the parking lot, bordering the building. The plan includes potential on-street parking for nine cars if permitted by the village, which has jurisdiction over the streets. All options would add a sidewalk along the street for the length of the hill with crosswalks at the entry points.

Option 1 would propose a total of 44 lined parking spaces in the Jermain lot (see above).

In Option 2, the school bus loading zone would be moved to an on-street pull-off loading zone on the southern side of Jermain Avenue, which Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano told Mr. Salvesen he would permit. The Jermain lot would have 38 spaces.

Options 1 and 2 call for the removal of an old Norway maple tree that Mr. Salvesen said is not in good health and “will take care of itself over time anyway,” and the relocation of several others.

Option 2 for the Jermain Avenue lot. Photo courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Option 2 for the Jermain Avenue lot. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Both options provide for the potential to construct five additional spaces in the Jermain Avenue lot in the future.

A “reduced scope scheme,” according to Mr. Salvesen, Option 3, would still expand the Jermain Avenue lot westward, but considerably less so, with less intrusion onto the walkway and green space on the hill’s northern edge. It would have 30 spaces, five spaces for on street parking, if allowed by the village, and an optional three spaces that could be constructed later on. The Norway maple would not need to be cut down, although two trees, the dedication tree and a small double cedar, would still need to be relocated. The bus-loading zone remains on school property.

The net gain of Option 3 is one parking spot.

In all three options, the Division lot has 49 proposed spaces, with the 10 additional spaces made by filling in the green tree wells, once occupied by trees that have since died.

Board member Mary Anne Miller said she is “not in favor of cramping the Jermain lot at the expense of the Division Street lot.”

Ms. Miller said since 2004, enrollment in the district has grown by 135 students, “so it isn’t the sleepy little Pierson that it used to be.”

Option 3 for the Jermain Avenue lot, as well as the proposed plans for the Division Street lot. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Option 3 for the Jermain Avenue lot, as well as the proposed plans for the Division Street lot. Plan courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District.

Carol Williams, who lives across the street from Pierson, called the first two options “extremely destructive to the character of the hill” and asked whether the plans could be superimposed over an aerial photograph.

Gordon Herr asked the board to consider a product his company, Marketing Works, sells, EcoRaster permeable paver, a green alternative to asphalt. Manufactured from 100-percent recycled bags, the product resembles a box-like planter and allows for grass parking lots, has a 20-year warranty, does not deteriorate in extreme temperatures, can be plowed over and can sustain trees, Mr. Herr said, eliciting cheers from the audience.

All of the options, which will be run by the planning committee at an open meeting Tuesday, April 8 and again presented for public input at the following board meeting, Wednesday, April 23, allow for a 100-foot drop-off area along the right side of the Jermain lot, which Mr. Salvesen said could alleviate the congestion in the Division Street lot.

Addressing the traffic safety issue for afternoon pick-up and morning drop-off, Mr. Nichols proposed some temporary solutions to be implemented, which the board approved.

The first is to provide multiple points of entry into the building: the main entrance, the Pupil Personnel Services door off the Jermain lot and at the cafeteria, to accommodate students entering from the Montauk lot.

Mr. Nichols also suggested closing the entrance to the Division lot off in the morning (except for teachers parking there) and encouraging parents to head down Division Street from Grand Street, rather than up from Jermain or from Marsden.

The school will station two people, in addition to the current monitor John Ali, to monitor the Division Street area and two people to monitor Jermain Avenue. Mr. Nichols said they will be “very proactive” in letting parents know of the changes and would implement them beginning Monday, April 7.

The plans presented by Mr. Salvesen on Tuesday also include a renovation of Pierson’s main entrance, currently hidden in a corner by the Division lot. With “some of the character of the former front door” at the top of the hill, it will have a gateway arch, thin steel columns and tablature with the school name to make the entrance more prominent.

Order Comes to Pumpkintown

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Anyone who regularly takes Route 27 through Water Mill this time of year knows about Hank’s Pumpkintown.

After the season officially launches this Saturday, September 24 the sprawling 30-acre parcel packed with an apple orchard, play structures, a corn maze, a farm stand and — of course — a pumpkin patch will attract hundreds of families on any given day through the end of October.

But along with hoards of Halloween pumpkin pickers inevitably comes two rows of parked cars neatly packed along the shoulder on both sides of Route 27. With the sheer number of cars and families crossing the highway as they go to and from Pumpkintown, often this spells traffic.

However, this year, legislation passed by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) will restrict parking on the north side of the highway — across from Pumpkintown — from County Road 39 to Head of Pond Road. The legislation was approved in June at the request of the Southampton Town Board.

What’s more, last week Southampton Town issued additional parking restrictions on Fairbanks Court, a cul-de-sac across from Pumpkintown that runs alongside Duck Walk Vineyards, another spot where the field’s fall visitors often leave their vehicles. Both restrictions last from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., September 1 through November 15.

“There are issues of congestion in that area,” explained Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who emphasized that the legislation was not spurred by complaints from residents; rather, “it was observation-driven.”

According to Graboski, the congestion caused by roadside parking in the area often made it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass. It also made visits to Pumpkintown especially precarious for those who chose to park on the north side of the street, in front of Duck Walk Vineyards, and cross the highway on foot to get to the field.

According to Pumpkintown owner Hank Kraszewski, the DEC’s parking restrictions will significantly limit the amount of congestion along Route 27, which will benefit everyone in the long run.

“It made me crazy when ambulances would go through,” Kraszewski said of the bottleneck in front of Pumpkintown.

In addition to supporting measures imposed by the town and the state, Kraszewski said he has opened a three-acre parcel in the midst of Pumpkintown to accommodate parking. (He estimates the lot could hold up to 375 cars.)

Kraszewski noted that an aerial shot of Pumpkintown from 2010 showed 100 cars parked along Route 27, which “was a real safety concern.”

The Pumpkintown owner said neighbors were very supportive of the measures to restrict parking, including Pumpkintown’s neighbor to the north, Duck Walk Vineyards — for the most part.

“I look at it this way: Is [the traffic] a slight inconvenience? For people driving by, yes. Do I have a problem with an influx of customers? Not at all,” stated tasting room manager Pam Przepiora.

This time of year, she said Duck Walk actually benefits from an increase in foot traffic due to the vineyard’s close proximity to Pumpkintown. And while she supports the town’s efforts to regulate traffic, in theory, she said no-parking signs will do little to prevent the pedestrian problem.

“People are still going to walk across the street to Duck Walk Vineyards with their children and their strollers,” she said. “I don’t understand why Southampton Town won’t just give us a traffic cop.”

Kraszewski and Graboski worked closely with both government and law enforcement officials to solve the parking predicament — most notably Town Fire Marshall Cheryl Kraft and Town Transportation Director Tom Neely.

The group discussed different options, including putting a crosswalk in the area and hiring a crossing guard. But ultimately it was decided that enforcement needed to come from the state as Route 27 is under the state’s jurisdiction.

“The town police were of the opinion that unless you put up ‘no parking’ signs, there’s nothing you could do [to calm traffic],” Kraszewski recalled. According to Kraszewski, the problem with hiring a TCO was in trying to get all pedestrians to cross the road in the same spot.

However, he added that no option has been removed from the table entirely. Should traffic problems persist through this pumpkin-picking season, he said he and town board officials will revisit the issue.

Update: Parking Ban in Noyac

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By Claire Walla

On Tuesday, July 26 Southampton Town Board will vote on a resolution to lift the partial parking ban now in effect on Noyac Bay Avenue in Noyac.
Earlier this month, town board member Jim Malone sponsored a resolution to compromise on 100 feet of unrestricted parking on the south side of Noyac Bay Avenue, which dead-ends at a channel leading into a private marina. However, after numerous residents in the greater Sag Harbor area and several more East Enders supporting beach access rights continued to fight to lift the ban completely, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst pushed to put another resolution on the agenda that would do just that.
At previous town board meetings, Throne-Holst, Malone and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming have openly expressed their support of lifting the parking restrictions entirely, claiming beach access to be a fundamental right for those in the town of Southampton.
While Councilman Chris Nuzzi has said he, too, supports beach access, he has previously expressed an unwillingness to take action beyond the 100-foot compromise that’s already been adopted by the town.

Middle School Counselor’s Job Safe for This Year

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With New York Governor David Paterson poised to make a total of $3.2 billion in state funding cuts, the Sag Harbor School District will likely lose $148,000 in state aid next year. And as a result of this reduced subsidy, the school will probably need to trim expenses for this school year.
The Pierson community recently swirled with information that one such cut was the middle school guidance counselor. At a board of education meeting on Monday, over a dozen teachers and parents lobbied the board to retain not only the position but the current counselor, Carl Brandl. School superintendent Dr. John Gratto assured the public that Brandl’s position is safe for the rest of this year but said he couldn’t make the same guarantee for 2010-2011.
Based on public comments, Brandl has several supporters in the community. One mother, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she works in the kitchen staff and witnesses first hand how Brandl relates to the students.
“Carl is a man who knows every single one of those kids. He is vital [to the school],” she remarked.
Other parents asserted that a middle school guidance counselor provides necessary emotional support to help students through the difficult years of early adolescence. Brandl advises close to 220 students and has been with the district since 2004.
According to Pierson guidance counselor Eileen Kochanasz, in a meeting last week Dr. Gratto said Brandl’s position could be cut.
“Staffing cuts needed to be examined. We were looking at staffing cuts as one idea. But it has been rejected. Now, we don’t feel that is necessary,” stated Dr. Gratto.
He later added that the school didn’t believe it would be fair to cut staff or programs in the middle of the year. Instead, Dr. Gratto outlined a four-part plan to maintain existing staff despite decreases in state aid.
The first measure mirrors a similar spending freeze enacted last year. The district’s business manager Len Bernard will analyze the remaining budget dollars with a fine tooth comb and is expected to suggest $100,000 worth of cuts. Dr. Gratto added that the cuts will be vetted with administrators. Secondly, the school will disable approximately five to six overhead lights near classroom windows. This idea is expected to save around $10,000. Student Jessica Warne supported this idea, but teacher Nell Lowell suggested the school look into installing an additional light switch for fixtures by the window. On snowy or rainy days, said Lowell, the classroom would need the extra light.
The district is also looking to reduce the heat from 72 to 69 degrees, which would slash expenses by $10,000. Dr. Gratto added that by the end of the school year, Pierson will save around $38,000 by sharing transportation costs with the Springs School District over the summer.
Teacher Jim Kinnier asked if the district will commit to employing Brandl next school year. At the meeting, Dr. Gratto said at this point the board couldn’t make such a statement.
“There is a lot we don’t know about next year. But my preference would be to keep him,” added Dr. Gratto.


During the meeting, 725 Green chairwoman Gigi Morris urged the board to hold off on the school’s proposed parking project. Morris noted that the local community is financially struggling. She added that several residential neighbors of the school would prefer to have parking on the street instead of having taxpayers bear the cost of the $1 million parking plan. She said an ad hoc group representing several members of the community, from the police to the village, would soon be forming to comprehensively analyze the parking and traffic around the school.
If the bond proposition is passed, Dr. Gratto said the parking project can be deferred to the end of the bond’s design phase. The group would have around six months to compile and present alternatives to the parking plan.
Parent Ken Dorph spoke out against the project, saying by providing free parking the school had “fallen victim to one of the worst mistakes in traffic management.” He added that as a parent he always finds parking within a block of the school.
“To spend a million dollars on parking [in this economy] is wrong and I cannot support this,” said Dorph.

Worries Over Parking and TASH are raised

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There is never a dull moment in the Sag Harbor School District — and on Monday evening, the phrase was infused with new meaning at the board of education meeting. Dozens of teachers attended wearing their grey shirts, reiterating their dissatisfaction with contract negotiations and a stalemate in the bargaining process, and more than 20 parents and residents turned up to weigh-in on an upcoming parking project and the future of the middle and high school playing fields.
The board intends to spend around $1 million to create 51 additional parking spaces at the elementary school, renovate the Jermain Avenue lot near the Pierson gym and create additional car spots at the high school. During the meeting, the board announced an amendment to the plan. The parking project will no longer include seven spots that buttress Jermain Avenue. Now, there will be grass separating the street from the parking lot.
School board president Walter Wilcoxen further noted that the school isn’t required to increase the parking by any legislation, but would like to create new spaces to satisfy the needs of its staff and to accommodate a few visitors. Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano was on hand to support the parking project and said the congestion of parking has created safety issues.
But Carol Williams, who lives on Jermain Avenue across from the school was uncomfortable with spending money on parking and didn’t mind Pierson staff parking on the residential streets.
Other residents believe that by providing more parking, the school is encouraging car use over other modes of transportation. In conjunction with the parking project, some feel there should be a commensurate effort to promote biking and walking to school.
“The more people walk and bike, the safer walking and biking will be,” said 725 Green chairwoman Gigi Morris. Sara Gordon with the Peconic Land Trust asked for a plan to reduce car trips for families and staff.
Some parents also brought up the need for adequate sidewalks to the school, which would be the responsibility of the village. Village trustee Tim Culver said the village board was exploring installing sidewalks but such projects remain expensive.
The parking project would be part of a larger facilities bond which will be put up for a vote in December. Considering current interest rates and the decrease in construction prices, Wilcoxen said the school will most likely spend less on the project now than it would in the future.
In addition to discussions over parking, the board is mulling over purchasing a synthetic turf field for the middle and high school. The initial capital investment for synthetic turf is around $990,000 said director of buildings and grounds Montgomery Granger, but requires little maintenance. Over a 10 year period, the costs associated with an organic field or a synthetic one are comparable, he added.
“I hope we do one or the other,” remarked school board member Ed Haye. “I hope we don’t leave it the way it is.”
The current fields, noted Granger, are extremely compacted which can lead to injuries.
As the board meeting was winding down, Teacher Association President Eileen Kochanasz spoke to the stalemate in contract negotiations with the board.
“We have been watching some very organized, well-thought out plans presented and input from the public has been accepted. We just hope for the same treatment for the teachers,” said Kochanasz. “I have one thing left to say. The teachers are ready willing and able to negotiate.”
On Monday, Kochanasz said TASH officially asked for a “crisis” status with the New York State United Teachers union on the state of the negotiations, citing the board’s rejection of the fact finder’s report as a key reason for the move.
As the negotiations continue, several parents at the meeting said they feel the strife is deteriorating morale in the district.
“I feel a sense of loss in the schools and the community I moved into,” noted parent Janice Arbia. “I look at the teachers all dressed in the same shirts and I think there is a frustration in the board’s unwillingness to speak. Dr. Gratto you just got a raise … Then you [the board] are telling the teachers to tighten their belts.”
Wilcoxen said he will meet with Dr. Gratto and two other board members this week to “revisit the concept behind some of [the board's] positions and use it as a way to explore coming back to the table.”
“We spent two hours before [the meeting] started discussing ways to restart the negotiation process,” noted Haye. “Hopefully it will result in more fruitful negotiations.”
To which, Kochanasz replied, “Well that is good news for us and the district.”

Big Fix Could Cost $7 mil

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After a semester’s worth of meetings on a facility study, the Sag Harbor School District’s long-range planning committee finally brought their suggestions to the board of education on Monday evening.

Their suggestions came from a report completed in February 2007 by BBS Architects and Engineers, P.C., and on Monday the district’s architect was invited to give a presentation to the school board based on the committees decisions.

The presentation included some final recommendations by the long range planning committee totaling nearly $7 million in improvements if all the facility needs are met — and possibly twice that amount if parking and a new auditorium are considered.

Architect Larry Salvesen gave a condensed version of the seven lengthy meetings the committee held dealing with the facility needs of both schools. At those meetings, the planning committee went through a laundry list of items dealing with health and safety that would bring both school buildings up to current standards. The committee labeled potential items for improvement — such as doors, windows and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems — into three different priority groups. The study includes some 400 items in need of repair or upgrading.

To remedy those health and safety issues listed as first priority, it could cost the district $1.3 million. For priorities labeled as one and twos, the cost to the district could be $2.2 million. With all three priority groups considered, the amount comes to $ 7 million. Salvesen explained, however, these figures could be spread out over a longer period of time and over several budget cycles to soften the effect.

Not included in the projected $7 million for maintenance requirements, however, are the major projects — including changes to the auditorium and parking.

The long range planning committee suggested fixing the parking lots of the elementary school and changes to the Jermain Avenue lot at the high school to make both more suitable to the school’s needs.

Salvesen explained that 41 additional spaces are needed at the elementary school in order to have adequate on-site parking for those who work at the school.

Salvesen said one of the elementary school’s parking lots, located on Hampton Street, would cost around $320,000 to upgrade from 26 spaces to 51. The Atlantic Street lot, he explained, would cost $341,000 and add 20 more parking spaces. The cost to upgrade the Jermain Avenue lot at the high school from 36 spaces to 53 spaces would be $375,000. The total price for all these parking lots would be just over $1 million.

Salvesen also summarized committee discussions for a new or renovated auditorium at Pierson. Committee members have narrowed the auditorium options down to three and are now looking to the board of education for suggestions on which plan of action to take.

The least expensive plan, noted Salvesen, would be a $900,000 renovation of the auditorium. Some of the items listed in this suggestion by the architecture firm have already been included in this year’s budget, however – including the replacement of the main curtain for $40,000.

The second plan is a $2 million project that would add about 68 seats on a balcony above the existing auditorium. This option would also renovate the bathrooms in the curved hallway, make improvements to the main entryway, improvements to the stage, among other things.

The third option is a $12 million project which moves the auditorium into the courtyard area and rebuilds the current facility to be used as classrooms. This option would also eliminate the curved hallway for better use of space.

A new curtain and an updated HVAC system for the auditorium have already been added to the proposed budget — that figure is just under $100,000.

The financial analysis portion of the presentation was not discussed, however. School board president Walter Wilcoxen cut the presentation short, since it was closing in on two-and-a-half hours. Salvesen did say the board of education would have the final say on financial impact and putting the idea out to voters.

Long range planning committee members have discussed the impact to taxpayers at prior meetings and have a plan for how some of these expenses can be covered. Next year, there is a $3 million bond expiring — which would allow the district to take out another bond at the same price and, according to superintendent Dr. John Gratto, have no impact to taxpayers. For a new bond of $3 million Gratto explained there would be an additional cost of $50 per year for a homeowner with a house valued at $1 million.

Wilcoxen said he would like to invite the budget advisory committee members to the next long range planning committee meeting to talk about bond issues and to “make it more manageable for us.”

Gratto indicated that once decided, the plan would likely be put out to vote in the fall.


Laptops for teachers — not kids

In other news the laptop initiative was also amended at Monday’s meeting.

Just a few weeks ago, the school district announced it was considering a leasing model for laptops for high school students. The laptops were also to be issued to fifth and sixth graders to use in the classroom — but not to be taken home.

Gratto announced on Monday that after a visit with some of his colleagues at Westhampton Beach High School, where there is a similar program in place, the Sag Harbor administrators decided not to implement the plan it introduced in January.

Gratto cited the fact some teachers were not adequately using the laptops in the classrooms in Westhampton Beach and said this is a reason to reconsider the initial idea. Gratto said instead, 60 computers will be allocated to teachers in the elementary and high school on a lease agreement to familiarize teachers with how the computers can be best used in the classroom. Then, at a later date, the laptop program for students would be considered.



New Village Zoning Code Nears Final Draft

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After two-and-a-half years of zoning planning, code drafting, public forums and numerous revisions, the proposed village zoning code might be enacted as early as April. A public hearing on the new code held on Friday, February 13, yielded less public comment than in previous sessions. The discussion during the hearing was mainly devoted to the revisions which have been made to the code. An amended version of the code will be published in the near future.

The key revisions made to the code include second floor uses, the purview of the Historical Preservation and Architectural Review Board, the timeline for filing a Certificate of Occupancy and day care center and bed and breakfast notification. With the revisions, second floor spaces in the village business district are allowed to be used for retail, office or residential purposes. A confusing piece of language concerning the ARB’s jurisdiction was rewritten, and now clearly states that the ARB does not have jurisdiction over the uses of a retail space. Under the proposed zoning code, a new owner has thirty days to attain a Certificate of Occupancy. In addition, those interested in creating a bed and breakfast or day care center will need to notify their neighbors within a 500-foot radius, instead of only 200 feet.


Sag Harbor Planning Consultant Richard Warren presented two flow charts detailing the process for expansion and change of uses for retail spaces in the village business district. One flow chart showed the process for spaces 3,000 square feet and under, while the other chart detailed the process for spaces above 3,000 square feet. Warren added that special exception uses, which have received a measure of scrutiny from the public, are still permitted uses but simply have to meet a more stringent set of criteria, since they often involve more intensive uses. Warren gave the example of a shoe store changing into a restaurant, which is a special exeception use and requires more parking and sewage usage.

Members of the community still raised concerns over the ARB’s ability to govern interior designs which are visible from the street.

“This seems to restrain certain freedoms, [especially] the freedom of expression,” said Susan Sprott.

However, this provision predates the new zoning code and was enacted in 1994, said Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill. Members of the board added that the purview of the ARB doesn’t extend to merchandise in the retail space.

Overall, members of the board seemed satisfied with the revisions made to the code.

“I do think it went fairly well,” said Trustee Tiffany Scarlato of the hearing on Friday. “I think we are pretty much at the end of the line. I am pretty happy with the end result. Everyone didn’t get exactly what they wanted, but there was certainly a compromise.”

Throughout the discussions over the new zoning code, the issue of parking has come up again and again. According to mayor Greg Ferraris, the new zoning code was intended to handle zoning issues within the village, and not to ameliorate some of the village’s infrastructure problems, including parking.

Parking has been a highly debated issue within the village, well before the new village zoning code was proposed. During the summer season, village parking is often scarce and can lead to traffic congestion. At a recent public hearing on the new zoning code held on January 29, Alan Fruitstone, the owner of Harbor Pets, said many of his customers refer to Sag Harbor as a ‘drive through village’ in the summer months, due to parking and traffic problems. He implored the village to incorporate parking solutions into the new code.

The proposed village zoning code, however, does amend the village’s solution to traffic problems, by eliminating the parking trust fund. Culver commended the village for this move.

“I think eliminating the parking trust fund is a step in the right direction,” said Culver, during a later interview. “It created an unnecessary tension between business owners and the village.”

Culver also contended that parking is an issue which should be addressed in the coming years. He believes it is an opportune time for the village to create parking solutions.

“Now we have a group of folks who are focused on planning issues. Maybe we could now think of the future of the village in a visionary way and generate a discussion [on parking]” added Culver.

During the hearing on Friday, Ted Conklin, proprietor of the American Hotel, articulated these sentiments. Conklin hopes the village will also look into village infrastructure issues, including parking and sewage. “We need to commit ourselves to a visionary plan for the whole of Sag Harbor … Something that generations from now will be proud of,” said Conklin.

The next public hearing on the proposed zoning code will be held on March 19. If no revisions need to be made to the code after this hearing, the board will have to wait at least ten days to enact the new zoning code.


Above: Ted Conklin, owner of the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, calls for a “visionary plan” for the village. 


See video excerpts from the hearing at www.sagharboronline.com


Big Fix at School Would Cost Millions

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Sag Harbor school district taxpayers may be looking at spending over $16 million to tackle a number of items in and around the district’s buildings, based on recommendations settled on this week.

As the district’s Long Range Planning Committee met for the last time on Thursday evening, members were finally able to reach consensus on a variety of items, including health and safety issues, storage, maintenance concerns and other upgrades to both the elementary and high schools. The committee members also looked at other big ticket items like changes to the parking lots and a new or improved auditorium.

The committee, which will now bring those recommendations to the board of education, is made up of members of the community, faculty, school board, and the district’s superintendent, and was charged with establishing project priorities. The study was conducted by the district’s architect, Larry Salvesen and his firm BBS Architects and Engineer, P.C.

“I don’t think we should have fear to present this to the community,” said committee member Peter Solow, a Pierson teacher. “It is not a need, but a want. And let the community decide if this is something they want to invest in.”

On Thursday, the committee, which has been meeting monthly since September, agreed that revamping parking at both schools was indeed necessary and the committee will be suggesting the board of education okay $1.3 million for improvements to three lots on Jermain Avenue, Atlantic Avenue and Hampton Street. The Jermain Avenue lot would be redesigned to create an additional 17 spaces, at a cost of $375,000. The lot at Atlantic Avenue would add another 26 spaces and would cost $340,000. The lot at Hampton Street would cost $320,000 and add an additional 25 spaces.

Members of the committee also agreed the district should spend $3 million on a list of maintenance items marked as top priorities for both the elementary and high schools. The items include replacing door hardware, guard rails at the elementary school’s main entrance, and heating and ventilation equipment — things that need to be on par with current health and safety requirements. However, Salvesen is working on Energy Performance Contracts for certain projects included in the maintenance portion, which may be taken out of the total.

For example, he said the boiler that the district is now considering purchasing, which costs $300,000, could be paid for by an Energy Performance Contract (EPC), in which the district will have the ability to pay back this outlay with money saved from conserving energy if the projects can pay for themselves within 18 years.

Perhaps the biggest ticket would be for a rehab of the aging auditorium at Pierson. Members of the committee, however, could not agree on the creation of a new auditorium or improvements to the current one, even after the district’s architect came back with three different plans.

One of those plans — a complete redesign of the facility using the courtyard — came with a $12 million price tag, while the lowest alternative, which would be an upgrade of the auditorium, was $1 million. Members of the committee suggested that perhaps some improvements can be made to the auditorium for less than the $1 million plan — items that would alleviate some of the problems including heating and ventilation and the ripped curtains.

Most likely, said Salvesen, the district would only ask for an additional $60,000 from taxpayers for buildings and grounds use in this May’s school budget. This money could be used for improvements in the auditorium.

At Monday’s board of education meeting, building and grounds supervisor/athletic director Bill Madsen told the board it would cost $45,000 to replace the curtains and rigging in the auditorium, which members agreed was a health and safety issue.

In order to finance the other projects the committee is recommending, Superintendent John Gratto suggested committee members ask the board of education to add a proposition onto the John Jermain Library vote, which will take place in September 2009.

Gratto suggested that the district could present four different proposals for the auditorium on the ballot and let voters decide.

Although district business manager Len Bernard did not attend the meeting, he sent a memo suggesting ways that the district may be able to fund the projects.

“Based on current town assessments and anticipated non-tax revenues, $300,000 of new debt service [which is the cost to fund $3 million in borrowing per year over 15 years], would cost the owner of a $1 million market value house approximately $53 per year in additional school property tax right now,” Bernard said in the memo, adding that this would be for both Southampton and East Hampton residents.

“It’s the cost of a cup of coffee [per week during one year’s time],” Gratto said.

Bernard, also explained in his memo that there is a $3 million bond being paid off in the 2009-2010 school year, and suggests that the district could borrow another $3 million in 2009-2010 with “no real impact on tax bills.”

Bernard also said that there is a bond from 1997 improvements, which will be paid off by 2009-2010.

Bernard explained that $3 million can be paid for with the money from the 1997 bond, and a new $3.3 million bond for 2009-2010 would only cost taxpayers an additional $53 per year. This would equal $6.3 million, which would be used for the big ticket items like parking and improvements to the auditorium, and $300,000 for the remainder of the maintenance projects.

In previous meetings, the committee members focused on ways to fund the projects, but at last week’s meeting, Gratto quickly reminded committee members that they were not responsible for finding ways to pay for the projects, but simply to make suggestions to the board of education. 

“I think we need to prioritize, but it is up to the board to say what is palatable,” Gratto said.

 “If we educate them, [the board of education and the public] they will be convinced by all the facts,” said Gratto.

Illustration above shows proposed parking lot configurations, including 25 new stalls in front of Sag Harbor Elementary School; 26 new stalls at the rear of the elementary school; and 17 new stalls at the front left of Pierson Middle/High School. Parking at lots on Montauk Avenue and on the Division Street side of Pierson would remain unchanged.


District Considers New Plans for Auditorium and Parking at Pierson

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The “Facilities Study” of both Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School in the Sag Harbor school district is a compilation of different tasks that need to be completed at the schools in order to comply with current codes and standards. At their most recent monthly meeting, however, the district’s Long Range Planning Committee focused more on big-ticket items such as a new auditorium and parking.
If combined, those two projects alone could cost the district as much as $12.7 million — but that is if they include all the bells and whistles. Although the beginning of last Thursday’s meeting focused on parking, the majority of the time was spent discussing the new auditorium. The conversations on Thursday mirrored those of earlier meetings. This time, district architect Larry Salvesen prepared three plans for a new auditorium as requested by committee members during their October meeting.
The three different plans for the auditorium included a basic plan, an improved plan and then the complete plan — costing $900,000, $2 million, and $12 million, respectively. Salvesen explained that the most expensive plan would include the creation of a separate space in the courtyard area, adjacent to where the current auditorium is.
“The art [department] is looking for space,” Salvesen said, “If you added art where the current auditorium is, then the entire center of the building becomes the arts.”
During Thursday’s meeting, some committee members shared their personal feelings from music concerts and plays they have attended in recent weeks. Members of the committee, which is made up of teachers, administrators, parents and other community members, expressed frustration about the lack of air conditioning, ventilation, torn curtains and other issues in the current facility.
Pierson High School Principal Jeff Nichols said that because of the inadequacies of the facility, he schedules “moving up” ceremonies and other similar assemblies in the middle school gymnasium.
Further, members of the committee talked about the vinyl tile that makes up the floor, the risers and issues with the stage itself.
“Why are we are looking at the little details?” committee member and former chemistry and physics teacher Richard Gold asked. “It is such a big project that has such a big impact and I wonder if we should be talking about the dismal feeling of the facility or are we trying to create a place that will give excitement to the facility and the community — and bring possible income to the school?”
“It’s a weird time to say that the energy that can be created by pride and enthusiasm is something that can’t be seen in dollars and cents,” said Gold who also noted that he attended a play the week prior, and there was a contrast as to what was going on on-stage and the actual room it was taking place in.
“It was painful to me,” he said. “This is the center of the school and it’s a shame. It’s a question of motivation and not just economies.”
But others at the meeting had different concerns, and requested more information about the current use of the facility.
One committee member asked how many school-related performances happen in the auditorium, and noted that it seemed like a lot of money to spend on a facility that hosted three performances a year.
Nichols disagreed with that number, saying he hadn’t yet finished tallying up all the performances scheduled for the year, but added that it was more like 20 in a school year.
“Right now the situation is oppressive,” said Nichols. “You can’t enjoy it.”
Pierson art teacher Peter Solow added that the number of performances is misleading.
“You are talking just about the performances, but not utilization,” Solow said. “Right now there is no facility to be used for rehearsal, there is no space for sets and there is no other place for them to go. They are rehearsing in the auditorium, and there are a number of other uses for this space.”
Solow explained that the new space can be used for awards ceremonies and other events, which have been moved due to the failing HVAC system.
“Some of the performances had to be moved. It was too hot, we had to change it. People have fainted in there while watching performances,” Solow said.
The three different alternatives for the auditorium include both minor and major changes.
“Scheme A is small improvements,” Salvesen explained. “Scheme B has everything in A and a little more.”
Plan “C” is a proposal that puts the new auditorium in the court yard and could potentially create more space for additional classrooms and storage.
The arguments bounced back and forth on what a reasonable solution to the pending issue of building a new auditorium should be.
“No one is arguing that the space doesn’t work,” president of the school board Walter Wilcoxen said addressing Solow’s concerns.
“You could say generally it doesn’t work, but we should say that it is fundamentally inadequate if you don’t build storage,” Solow argued.
Questions also raised by members of the committee focused on the idea that the new space may be able to generate income for the school if it is rented out.
“The motivation should not be to make money off of this,” Solow said.
Wilcoxen told members of the committee that the “C” plan may be more of a long term goal.
“It may not be realistic, right now, but start thinking about it as a possibility,” he said.
But Nichols informed the members, “There is another issue, there is an immediacy.”
The other large project occupying the Long-Range Planning Committee is the issue of parking at both the elementary school and Pierson.
The committee members decided at a previous meeting that the lots at Jermain Avenue, Atlantic Avenue and Hampton Street should be reconfigured to allow for more spaces. At their last meeting, committee members asked Salvesen to create a new plan, this time allowing for even more spaces along Atlantic Avenue by moving the asphalt court closer to Clinton Street and utilizing empty, unused lawn area for an extension of the court additionally providing an extension of the parking lot.
At last week’s meeting, Salvesen showed his plans to move the court and extend the parking lot along with the price tag for each of the three proposed lots. For the lot on Atlantic Avenue it would add an additional 26 spaces and cost the district $340,000. The reconfigured lot off of Jermain Avenue has a $375,000 price tag and would add an additional 17 spaces. And the lot on Hampton Street would cost $320,000 and add 25 spaces — but none of these estimates included contingencies and fees, according to Salvesen.