The Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee on Monday voted to allow Herbert Sambol to undertake a substantial expansion of a 970-square-foot, one-story cottage at 22 Cove Road within 25 feet of the edge of the bluff, although with some misgivings from members about the bluff’s stability.
The committee closed the hearing and agreed it would issue a formal approval next month for an expansion that would include the addition of a second floor and bring the total size of the house to 2,585 square feet as well as the construction of a 300-square-foot pool.
In exchange, Mr. Sambol will be required to return to the committee so it can determine whether or not a plan to replant the bluff proofs effective. If not, he will likely be required to terrace it to provide greater stability.
Committee member Jeff Peters, who abstained from voting, said he was concerned that even though Mr. Sambol will replant the bluff face as part of his project, it will not be enough to forestall continued erosion.
“The water—I don’t care if they have drywells or not, it’s going to trickle down,” said Mr. Peters, who wanted the committee to require that the bluff be terraced as part of the initial approval.
Stephen Clarke, who presided over the meeting in the absence of chairman Bruce Tait, cited concerns of construction equipment operating near the bluff’s edge and requested that Mr. Sambol’s engineer be on-site regularly to make sure they stayed away from the edge.
Richard Warren, the board’s environmental consultant, said he would add language to the approval, specifying those restrictions. “If people say they are going to do it this way, you want to make sure they do it this way,” he said, “That’s the bottom line.”
Mr. Sambol’s attorney, Dennis Downes, suggested that his client be required to return next March, after the winter’s storms, rather than holding up the application for several months. “None of us know what’s going to happen, “ he said.
Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Richard Warren shows concerned neighbors a map of an all but approved subdivision at Route 114 and Lighthouse Lane.
James Giorgio’s hopes to raise his historic building at 125 Main Street three feet and add new retail at the basement level, giving the space Main Street access, will likely be approved next month after the project received praise and no criticism at a public hearing during Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Planning Board meeting.
On Tuesday night, architect Chuck Thomas explained that in addition to raising the building, over 500 cubic-feet of village-owned soil would need to be excavated at the front of the property in order to create the new retail space. A brick patio is also proposed at the rear of the building, with a pergola, as well as a brick sidewalk that would link Church Street to Main Street.
Ernest Schade, a Sag Harbor resident who owned the building for 20 years said the project was crucial to the structure’s viability. He said the building, which dates back to the 1750s and is located next to one of Sag Harbor’s most celebrated historic structures, The Latham House, is sturdy, but that the cedar cladding the building is rotting.
“I would hate to see this building collapse because it is being eaten away,” said Schade, noting there are so many openings under the house that rats were once an ongoing problem.
Michael Eicke, who owns Christy’s Art Center just a few doors down from 125 Main Street, seconded Schade, noting it is structures like Giorgio’s that give Sag Harbor its special character.
“If this building is to survive another 120 years, it has to have a new base,” he said.
Eicke added the creation of street-level retail at the location will open up the end of Main Street.
“It keeps a lot of people away and to survive, again, you need a window and you need an entrance on the street level,” he said.
Sag Harbor resident Dolores Fenn said she wondered about the need for an 8.6-ft. ceiling height in Sag Harbor, but quieted when learning the overall height of 125 Main is expected to fall eight inches below the ridge of The Latham House.
The planning board is expected to approve the site plan for 125 Main Street at its May 25 meeting.
A handful of neighbors of a 3.2acre, six-lot subdivision at Route 114, Lighthouse Lane and Washington Avenue approached the board concerned about what would eventually be developed on the properties. While one lot is proposed to keep an existing two-story, single family dwelling, the remaining five lots would be developed at a further date.
Peter Rocker, a resident on Lighthouse Lane, said he was worried about whether the houses would not be custom, but spec homes, and about their size.
“The houses, each would be a custom home on a given lot,” said attorney Dennis Downes. “There is no plan to do a subdivision like you would think in Levittown.”
Neighbors, including Barbara Reese and Jackie Fuchs, joined Rocker in crowding around a map provided by Sag Harbor Planning Consultant Rich Warren, but without any plans yet laid out for the homes, did not make any more comments to the board.
The subdivision may be approved next month.
In other planning news, both the retail spaces that house East End Prime and the Juicy Naam on Division Street, were granted changes of use, which will allow them to continue to operate as they have for the last six months. Dorothy Moorhead was also granted a waiver for site plan approval to construct a deck at the rear of her 34 Main Street building. Jack Tagliasacchi, a member of the board, was granted approval for four outdoor tables at his restaurant Il Cappuccino. Tagliasacchi recused himself from the final vote.
When the “Dark Skies” legislation was first proposed by Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, it appeared to be praised by members of the public. Local citizen advisory groups, including the Sag Harbor CAC, had long asked the town for laws impeding light pollution to be put on the books.
Oddly enough, at the first public hearing held on Tuesday, the “Dark Skies” law was met with both outrage and congratulations from local residents.
Richard Warren, the village’s planning consultant, spoke against the draft law on behalf of the Southampton Business Alliance.
“This will incur significant costs for [residents] personally. I know from my own experience an electrician can cost $250 just to come to your house,” said Warren, who is the president of the alliance. He added that the legislation should apply to only new construction or a homeowner building a new addition. Warren believes the town should create incentives for people with pre-existing outdoor lighting to adopt “Dark Skies” lighting. In the current version of the law, all pre-existing outdoor lighting must be brought into compliance within 10 years of the legislation becoming effective.
Some supporters of the law, including a representative from the Group for the East End, suggested town residents be given only five years to become compliant.
Bob Schepps, president of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, said the legislation would essentially over regulate town residents.
Assistant town attorney Joe Burke said the intent of the law was to reduce light pollution, to cut down on electricity waste and to prevent the glare or “sky glow” which can infringe on the night sky vista.
“We don’t regulate lighting at all right now,” reported supervisor Linda Kabot. “What Nancy is trying to do is put a comprehensive lighting code on the books.”
Graboski adjourned the hearing and carried it over to the June 23 town board meeting at 6 p.m.
Young Vets Get Benefits of Affordable Housing
In a previous Southampton Town board meeting, the resolution giving military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan first priority on certain affordable housing properties received criticism from the public. Some said it was unfair to single out one particular group of veterans to benefit from the program, though councilman Christopher Nuzzi, who sponsored the legislation, said all income-eligible veterans are included in the general lottery. During Tuesday’s board meeting, however, town residents came out in support of the legislation.
“This law was inspired by several non-profit housing organizations looking to do something good for returning veterans. These young people who go off to war often have to delay a career,” said former town supervisor Patrick “Skip” Heaney, the current county economic development and workforce housing commissioner. Heaney added that the law piggybacks a similar one passed by the county.
“This is aimed at first time home buyers,” continued Heaney.
Daniel Stebbins, a 43-year-old veteran, said housing prices in the town are prohibitively expensive for young residents, forcing them to move elsewhere.
“It would be a shame if in 50 years, there were no vets here,” noted Stebbins.
The board passed the legislation becoming the first town within the county to do so.
“It is great to have Southampton be the model. We hope other towns will meld this into their own code,” remarked Kabot.
Town to Buy Pike Farm, Waiting for County
In a partnership with the county, the town plans to buy the development rights to a 7.4 acre farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack, where the Pike Farm Stand operates. The rights will be purchased from the Peconic Land Trust for around $6.4 million. Suffolk County has promised to pay 70 percent of the purchase price.
“This is a community treasure — that is why you see the county stepping up to the plate,” said Kabot, but added that the purchase was contingent on the county partnership.
Mary Wilson, the town’s community preservation fund manager, wasn’t sure if the county’s recent plan to use their main open space funding source to abate county property taxes would affect the purchase of the development rights. During a later interview, county legislator Jay Schneiderman said open space projects are now on hold until the county votes on this legislation, which is expected to be up for a vote in the coming weeks.
During Tuesday’s Sag Harbor Planning Board meeting, Michael Minkoff, the prospective buyer of the Headley Studio property on Main Street, was granted site plan approval for his project, though this approval came with a few contingencies. In his most recent site plan, Minkoff created a private parking space on the property. This space, however, wasn’t within a ten-foot clearance to the nearest building on the property, which is required by village law. Miles Anderson, Minkoff’s lawyer, presented an alternative to the board. He said Minkoff was willing to move the private parking space into the driveway. “[Minkoff] wants to be able to promise the tenant a private off-street parking space,” said Anderson, speaking of the art gallery interested in leasing the ground floor retail space.
At the close of the meeting, the board signed off on the site plan approval, under the condition the garage parking is reflected in an amended site plan, the pool equipment storage be moved from the garage to the basement and the cellar door be moved further away from the driveway. Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill urged Minkoff to go before the zoning board of appeals for a variance for an on-site parking space, not located in the garage. This space would be five feet away from the building, which is required under state law. The original parking space on the property was closer to the building than five feet.
Site plan approval was still granted, but Minkoff must submit amended plans noting the new on-site parking spot. Minkoff will still have to relocate the cellar entrance. Currently, the entrance is near the driveway, and could create a hazard if someone accidentally drove into it.
Minkoff will next have to visit the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board for final action on the amended site plans. If the ARB approves these plans, they will grant a certificate of appropriateness for the renovation.
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.Â
See video excerpts from the hearing at www.sagharboronline.com