Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Business Association"

Questions on New Code Remain

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By Marissa Maier

It was 15 minutes before the public hearing on the proposed new village zoning code, but Sag Harbor’s municipal meeting room was already filled to capacity. Members of Save Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Business Association waved to one another as they took their seats. Others talked in huddled groups. When the mayor and village trustees took their seats, the crowd hushed.

It was nearly two years ago that trustee Tiffany Scarlato and mayor Greg Ferraris began exploring a revision of the village code, which was last fully updated in the 1980s.

The code was full of inconsistencies and outdated provisions, said Ferraris. Over the years the code had been amended in a patchwork fashion, added Scarlato. Unprecedented development projects like the proposed condo complex at the Bulova factory and CVS’ purported interest in opening a store in the village has further brought the code issue to the forefront in the community.

Scarlato and Ferraris hired village attorney Anthony Tohill and planning consultant Richard Warren to research planning materials, zoning law and concepts. The final product of their work was compiled in “Planning Strategies for the Incorporated Village of Sag Harbor” a document which became a comprehensive plan for the new village zoning code.

The revised code was officially proposed in the spring of 2008. Since then the code has been revised based on public comments gathered at previous public forums.
At the end of his opening statement on Thursday, January 29, Ferraris said he hoped to facilitate a dialogue between the board and the public. Ted Conklin, a member of the Sag Harbor Business Association and owner of The American Hotel, was the first community member to speak.

“The vision of the future Sag Harbor is not terribly different from one camp to the other … But [the association] believes this code will put small businesses in peril,” said Conklin referencing a document prepared for the group by EEK architects, who studied the new code.

In the report, Stanley Eckstut of EEK cited the 3,000 maximum square footage allowance for ground floor business, codifying permitted retail space uses and hindering office uses on second floors in the village business district as measures that would hurt village economics.

“Creating rules that make it difficult to lease the ground floors for active paying tenants will jeopardize the ability of the buildings to remain financially viable,” wrote Eckstut who also referenced a provision in the code which prohibited creating new offices on the second floor in the VB or Village Business District.

“Restricting the upper floors from accommodating the very uses that are considered objectionable on the ground floor is counterproductive,” wrote Eckstut.

But the board countered Eckstut’s concern by noting that the code will soon be revised and building owners will be permitted to create office or residential space on the second floor of their building, as long as they visit the building department for a new Certificate of Occupancy with the stated use.

Further, board members said that if a retail space is under 3,000 square feet and an owner wants to change from one permitted use to another, the building department will give the owner a waiver to change the use. The owner would not have to visit the planning board, the board noted, because the change doesn’t require a site plan review.

Phil Bucking, whose sister, Lisa Field, runs the Sag Harbor Variety Store, said it would be harder for her to sell the business in the future because the store is over 3,000 square feet.

Ferraris said that if the Variety Store was turned into another permitted use, they would visit the planning board and request a waiver for the site plan review. The waiver would most likely be granted, as long as the change of use didn’t include an expansion, added capacity or required additional parking or sewage usage. These conditions would require a new site plan review of the space.

“Under the proposed code, the process is formalized and streamlined,” said Ferraris following the hearing. “Before, a lot was left up to the building inspector, but now there is a process.”

Conklin asked for the planning board to have a time schedule for applications and site plan reviews, and also a fee cap.

After the meeting, Scarlato said this wouldn’t be feasible because the village doesn’t have in-house planning staff who work on a regular basis. Instead, the village out-sources planning and engineering work.

David Lee, who manages a number of Main Street buildings, spoke out against a provision in the code which he said gave the ARB (Architectural Review Board) the power to review the interiors of retail spaces.

Tohill, however, later read from the code and stated the ARB has no such power.
In an advertisement that appears in this week’s issue of the Express, the Sag Harbor Business Association asks the village to “delay implementing the office district until we know the impact.”

Association member Jeff Sander asked the board to conduct a comprehensive review of the business owner’s specific concerns. A hefty list of business and property owners who are either against the code, or still on the fence, is included in the advertisement.
Save Sag Harbor’s lawyer Jeff Bragman agreed with the business association on the need to permit office and residential uses on the second floor, and congratulated the board on this revision.

“I thought the hearing was very impressive,” said Bragman later. “I think the board has done a good job at incorporating public comment into the code.”

Save Sag Harbor member Robert Stein, however, wished the code was more restrictive in regards to neighborhood density for daycare facilities and bed-and-breakfasts. Recognizing this concern after the hearing, Ferraris said the village was exploring revising this provision of the code. In the current draft of the code, both establishments need to alert neighbors in a 200 foot radius that they will set-up shop. Ferraris, however, proposes changing this to a 500 foot radius.

Despite the many divergent views that have surfaced throughout the code process, several community members spoke out to express a similar vision for Sag Harbor — one in which the village remains a pedestrian friendly, historical and commercially diverse place.

“I think everyone wants the code to be satisfactory for all the parties involved,” said Save Sag Harbor member April Gornick.

The next public hearing on the code will be held Friday, February 13 at 5 p.m. at the municipal building on Main Street.

New Code Sparks Praise and Scorn

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By Marissa Maier

When Jeff Sander started visiting Sag Harbor as a child in the 1940s and 1950s, the village was far from the destination it is today. Sander recalls a village with boarded up storefronts, closed factories, and a dilapidated wharf.

In those desperate times, who would have guessed that nearly 40 years later the village would be economically thriving, and a beacon of Hampton’s architectural and historical character. A few years ago, the village was doing so well that CVS Pharmacy was interested in leasing a Long Island Avenue space.

Barry Marcus, co-owner of the Sag Harbor Pharmacy, remembers the day in the summer of 2007 when a CVS representative visited the shop and offered to buy out the smaller pharmacy before CVS moved in.

“I told him ‘You can’t offer me enough to make me leave this business. I am not going to abandon Sag Harbor,’” said Marcus. For many local residents, the potential for CVS to gobble up the local “mom-and-pop” pharmacy was a symbol of how the village was vulnerable to encroaching commercial development. The pharmacy was a particularly poignant example because it has operated out of the same Sag Harbor building since the 19th century.

Even before CVS, village trustee Tiffany Scarlato and mayor Greg Ferraris were aware that Sag Harbor’s patchwork zoning code needed to be updated and streamlined, and also address public outcry over big box stores. The code hadn’t been fully revised since the early 1980s and Ferraris said it was filled with “contradictions and loopholes.”

It wasn’t until spring 2008 that a new village code was proposed, and by mid-summer a comprehensive plan was available for the public to review.

With the current draft of the new code, village officials hope to maintain the tenuous balance between protecting the character of Main Street, with its lack of formula stores and small-town feel, while also promoting the village’s development and economic viability.

The new code seeks to redefine the village’s several districts, including a residential district, a resort motel district, a waterfront district, a village business (VB) district and an office business (OB) district. Of these districts, the ones that have received the most public scrutiny have been the VB and OB. The VB is mainly located on Main Street and includes all of the peripheral business sites around the village. The OB is also located in areas on the periphery of Main Street, specifically on Long Island Avenue and Division and Meadow streets.

All of the types of businesses found on Main Street today will still be permitted to operate in the VB district, except for professional offices and business, like banks and real estate agencies. Should a new bank or real estate agency seek to open in the village, these businesses would need to operate in the OB district.

Under New York State Law, the village cannot explicitly ban big box or formula stores. The new code, however, discourages big box and formula stores from setting up shop in the village by limiting the size of stores and restricting formula signage.

The size of a retail space is capped at 3,000 square feet in the new code. If a business 3,000 square feet or less wanted to change their store from one permitted use, like a clothing store, to another permitted use, like a music store, they wouldn’t need site plan approval from the village boards. Instead, the owner would simply visit the building department to change to another permitted use.

There is also a square footage exception for supermarkets, hardware stores and furniture stores which are given a maximum 8,000 square feet.

“We made some exceptions for the things that already exist like the hardware store, Schiavoni’s and Fishers [Antiques], so these would not be made pre-existing non-conforming [under the new code] if someone wanted to buy those spaces,” said Scarlato.

One provision under the code also states that any office on the second floor of a VB building must be an accessory office to the ground floor business, and not used for a separate business.

These provisions of the new code have received both praise and criticism from local organizations.

The Sag Harbor Business Association applauds the village for trying to stave off big box stores, but worries that the other size restrictions and the VB and OB usage restrictions will hurt local business.

“In an economic downturn, business owners try to get any tenants that they can, but they are limited in the types of business they can operate in their retail space,” said Sander, a North Haven Village Trustee and member of the Sag Harbor Business Association who fears that the code goes to an extreme in determining how local businesses operate.

“I think economics are going to dictate how Sag Harbor evolves,” he said. “If people want the five-and-ten they will shop there, but if people want an upscale chain store then that is the kind of establishment that will survive.”

In a letter written to the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees on December 8, 2008, Robert Evjen, President of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and Robert Fisher, director of the Sag Harbor Business Association, asked the board to “only address the actions effecting superstores” and shelve the other code changes until “we all see where the economy is headed.”

Another group, the Save Sag Harbor organization, however, feels it is imperative to have a new code enacted as soon as possible.

“It is our single best shot to keep big stores out,” said Mia Grosjean, president of Save Sag Harbor.

“This is not a radical code,” added Jeffrey Bragman, the lawyer for Save Sag Harbor. “For people who deal with zoning codes, it’s pretty much down the middle. It supplies the kind of detail and clarity in procedure that is long overdue.”

Save Sag Harbor would also like to see stores under 3,000 square feet changing from one permitted use to another still go before the planning board.

“It would be an administrative site plan review,” said Bragman. “We want it to go through some kind of process so that the village has a record of it.”

“The code is a longtime overdue,” said pharmacist Marcus, who said other merchants share some of his views. He concedes, however, that “you are going to have pluses and minuses.”

Members from local organizations are likely to appear at the January 29 public hearing on the new zoning code, which will be held at the Sag Harbor Municipal Building at 5 p.m. The code is available for review at www.sagharborny.gov.


Sag Trustees Extend Moratorium Six Months

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The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees extended a commercial moratorium in the village another six months on Wednesday, November 12, although according to trustee Tiffany Scarlato, this is the last time the board expects it will need to extend the moratorium, as it hopes to adopt a new zoning code before June.

The moratorium has been in place since June of 2007, and now legally can continue through June 2009. It was put in place as the village began discussing rewriting its zoning code, which had not been updated since the early 1980s.

“We have a zoning code we believe will be the one scheduled for public hearing,” said Scarlato last Wednesday. “I am anticipating, certainly by the end of 180 days, we will have that completed.”

“Hopefully sooner rather than later,” said trustee Brian Gilbride.

The new code, drafted by Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill and village environmental planning consultant Richard Warren has been met with both support and criticism since it was unveiled in the beginning of May. Preliminary recommendations for the draft code were presented in the fall of 2007.

Many members of the business community have expressed concerns that the new code may have been too restrictive, while other organizations have supported the re-write, which was conceived to protect the historic character of the commercial district, and maintain the diversity of uses that currently exist.

The draft code — which suggests shrinking the village business district to encompass primarily Main and Bay streets, creates an office district surrounding the core commercial district, restricts size of stores and addresses some affordable housing initiatives on its very surface — went through a number of revisions since May during a series of public meetings. But according to Scarlato, it is unlikely any more large revisions will be made to the code.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mia Grosjean, president of Save Sag Harbor — a community organization that formed over concerns about over-development in the village and the threat of an influx of chain stores — spoke, asking the code be approved “as soon as possible.”

She also gave the board draft language out of Southold that she says might more adequately deal with the concern Save Sag Harbor members have over the possibility of chains like CVS or Ralph Lauren setting up shop on Sag Harbor’s mom and pop Main Street.

“We have had a lot of dialogue about the new code and I think it has been very effective,” said Sag Harbor Business Association member Jeff Sander, wondering if there would be more review of the code and a required environmental review.

Ferraris explained that the board is expecting to receive an environmental impact statement by December, after which public hearings on the impact statement, the draft code and the comprehensive plan will be held.

In other news, for the second meeting in a row, Gilbride faced off against a representative from Maran Corporate Risk Insurance Associates. Steve Maietta approached the board trying to understand why Gilbride would ask the board to change the village’s insurance broker, abandoning its contract with Maran in favor of using Jeffrey Brown of Dayton Ritz and Osborne Insurance. Last month, at Gilbride’s urging, the board adopted a resolution making the change with mayor Greg Ferraris and trustee Ed Deyermond abstaining on the change.

Maietta told the board last Wednesday that he had submitted a proposal to Gilbride — a proposal he says shows that the change to Dayton Ritz and Osborne saves the village virtually no money.

Gilbride began by saying he had not seen the proposal until the evening of the village board meeting, but Maietta countered that he had a discussion with Gilbride earlier in the week when the trustee admitted he had the document, but did not want to open it. Maietta continued to maintain making the switch would save the village no money and therefore wondered why Gilbride would ask for the change.

Gilbride countered the switch would save the village $1,000, although Maietta disagreed with the figure.

As the board adopted the resolution last month, Dayton Ritz and Osborne is already officially the village’s insurance broker. The change in no way affects the village’s insurance or the cost for insurance.