Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees"

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.

Three Will Run Uncontested in Sag Harbor

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By Kathryn G. Menu


Barring an aggressive write-in campaign, mayor Brian Gilbride, deputy mayor Tim Culver and trustee Ed Gregory will continue to serve on the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees after village elections on June 21, as no one handed in petitions to run against the incumbents by the May 17 deadline.

Sag Harbor Village Justice Andrea Schiavoni and acting justice Lisa Rana will also continue their positions in the newly created village justice court with no one vying to unseat the justices, who were appointed last year after the court was created.

The full slate of incumbents announced earlier this year that they would run together under the Sag Harbor Party banner, which has dominated village government throughout several administrations.

“I would have been happy to defend what we have done in the last two years,” said mayor Gilbride on Wednesday morning. “I think no one running against us shows that maybe we have made a lot of right decisions for the village over the last couple years.”

Mayor Gilbride praised trustee Gregory and said that as a member of the board with over 20 years of service behind him, the trustee brings a lot to the table in terms of institutional knowledge. He added that Culver, an attorney who worked with several members of the business community during the re-write of the village zoning code, has also been an asset for the board of trustees and someone he looks forward to working with for the next two years.

“I think this also points to the fact that we made an excellent choice for our appointed village justice in Andrea Schiavoni as well as our associate justice Lisa Rana,” he added. “The village justice court is working out well for everyone.”

Mayor Gilbride said he is looking forward to beginning to tackle stormwater runoff pollution at Havens Beach this year, as well as erosion on West Water Street after several storms last winter ate away most of the embankment next to West Water Street and threatened the roadway.

The village’s planning consultant Richard Warren has been working with engineers to develop a plan for dealing with the West Water Street erosion, said mayor Gilbride, and he hopes to have plans finalized before the fall.

While the Suffolk County Legislature is waffling over whether to give Long Wharf — technically a county road — to the village after months of saying the village needed to take ownership and financial responsibility for the wharf, mayor Gilbride said he would like to see that issue settled “one way or the other” in the next month.

“We have a few things moving along, but otherwise it will continue to be business as usual for us,” he said. “We will just keep plugging along, providing services, but trying to hold the line on expenses.”

Long Wharf Purchase Imminent

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Sag Harbor Village
Long Wharf Purchase Imminent

At the next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, on Tuesday, February 8, Mayor Brian Gilbride will make a push for the board to formally accept Suffolk County’s offer to sell the village Long Wharf and the adjacent Windmill Beach for $1.

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Gilbride said the village received a formal offer from the county to purchase Long Wharf and Windmill Beach two weeks ago, and that he would like to take action on the matter immediately. The board’s first budget work session will be held on February 25, he noted, and if purchased Long Wharf could cost the village as $340,000 in short term repairs, with the long term maintenance likely in the millions.

Late last year, the county approached the village about the sale of Long Wharf, which was once owned by Sag Harbor Village, but was transferred into county ownership decades ago. While the county has paid the bill for the long-term maintenance of the wharf as its owners, the village has taken in revenues from dockage at the site, last year earning $93,000.

While funding was in place, through a bond, for the county to complete some $600,000 in repairs to Long Wharf — something Mayor Gilbride hoped would be completed before the sale — no financial help has been offered to the village in correlation with the sale.

“I am at a point where I feel like we should just bring this to an end and just do it,” said Mayor Gilbride.

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will meet on the second floor of the Municipal Building at 6 p.m.

East Hampton Town
Multi-Town Helicopter Noise Advisory Committee on the Horizon

At tonight’s East Hampton Town Board meeting, it is expected the board will formally adopt the creation of a “Multi-Town Helicopter Noise Advisory Committee” to give a small group of experts in East Hampton, Southampton, Southold, Shelter Island and Riverhead the ability to work towards addressing helicopter noise, long viewed as a regional issue affecting a number of residents across the East End.

Last summer, in response to years of complaints by residents about the amount of helicopter traffic, and ensuing noise they bring to the East End, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a draft plan aimed at regulating helicopter traffic and curbing chopper noise.

Under the proposed regulation, helicopter pilots would be required to follow a northern route one mile offshore over Long Island Sound to Shoreham where they would split off either to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, the Southampton Helipad, Montauk Airport or East Hampton Airport following voluntary routes established in 2007, some of which bring flights to and from East Hampton directly over Sag Harbor and Noyac.

Regulations also propose that pilots keep a minimum altitude of 2,500 feet.

However, many residents and municipalities feared the regulations would do little to address the problem, and according to East Hampton Town Board Councilman Dominick Stanzione, four East End towns began working together to come up with a regional noise abatement program. In their talks, Stanzione said it became clear a multi-town helicopter noise abatement committee should be formed to create a draft plan to tackle the problem. If the East Hampton Town Board and the East End Mayors and Supervisors sign off on their plan, it would then be formally presented to the FAA.

“I think the issue of helicopter noise in our town has gotten to the point where we need multi-town solutions,” said Stanzione at a town board meeting on Saturday, January 29.

The committee, which will be comprised of one citizen representative from each of the four towns, as well as airport managers and New York State Senator Ken LaValle and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. will look toward suggesting voluntary solutions to the noise issue, such as re-routing of helicopters, as well as long term legislative and regulatory suggestions.

Stanzione will serve as the town board liaison to the committee, and Peter Wadsworth, a member of the town’s noise abatement committee, is expected to be appointed the town’s representative during Thursday night’s meeting.

East Hampton Town
MTK Concert Continues to Draw Protest

Despite the refusal of the East Hampton Town Board to rescind a mass gathering permit that will allow a two-day music festival, MTK: Music to Know Summer Music Festival at Oceanview Farm in Amagansett, some Amagansett residents continue to hammer the board about their concerns regarding the August event.

During its Saturday, January 29 meeting, the East Hampton Town Board heard once more from Amagansett resident John Broderick, a concert designer who has worked with musical acts like Madonna and Metallica.

Broderick called on the town’s police department and fire marshal to take a closer look at the music festival site plan, stating he does not believe it is possible to pull off what promoters Chris Jones and Bill Collage have presented and calling the festival a safety concern.

Both the fire marshal and East Hampton Town Police Chief Eddie Ecker have already signed off on the plan, which was approved by the town board in December.

On Saturday, Broderick questioned whether or not emergency service personnel will have adequate access to the site, which is located off Montauk Highway just outside downtown Amagansett. He charged should a stroke or injury occur, there is “no fast way” for an ambulance to enter the site, as there are only two entrances off the highway onto the farm and the back of the property is “barricaded” by the Long Island Railroad tracks. He said the same issue should raise safety alarms in the event of a fire.

East Hampton Town
Planning Board Changes

Last week, East Hampton Town Planning Board member Reed Jones was named the new chairman of that board, which has been led by acting chairman Bob Schaeffer since John Lycke stepped down from the post in September for personal reasons.

Schaeffer will continue to serve on the board as vice chairman.

Jones is an East Hampton resident and is an insurance broker at Amaden Gay Agencies.

On Tuesday, February 1, the East Hampton Town Board also appointed Amagansett resident Frank Falcone to the planning board. He replaces board member Sylvia Overby, whose term has expired. The appointment was almost unanimous, with councilwoman Julia Prince abstaining from the measure.

Government Briefs: 1-20-11

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Burke Building Almost Legal
By Kathryn G. Menu

A historic Division Street, Sag Harbor residence owned by Edward Burke, Jr. and his family will likely be converted into five legal office spaces next month following a straw poll Tuesday by members of the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals.

The Burke building, as it has come to be known, is located at 39 Division Street, and for over a year now has housed five office spaces after the Burke family restored the residence’s historic exterior and converted rooms into several office spaces. The work, however, was done prior to the Burke’s gaining approval for the change through the village planning board and zoning board of appeals.

This fall, the planning board indicated it was comfortable with the change of use, as the village’s new code zones the parcel in the newly created office district. That left the matter in the hands of the zoning board, which had several variances it had to rule on before that change could become official.

On Tuesday night, the Burke’s attorney Brian Desesa presented the zoning board with a reconfigured parking plan, as well as information on the other four parcels in the village’s office district, noting ultimately there are only three buildings within that district that can take advantage of the new district. The fourth parcel is the village parking lot off Division Street.

Also at issue was the size of each office, which was one of the variances needed for the change to become legal. While village code requires each office to be 800 square feet or larger, all of the office spaces in the Burke building fall far below that. Desesa argued that was in keeping with the integrity of the historic residence’s floor plan, which the Burke family maintained when it constructed the renovation.

Village attorney Anthony Tohill added that the office uses within the building, currently for a part-time Sag Harbor attorney and a healthcare agency, are passive uses, with many tenants keeping part time hours.

At next month’s meeting, Tohill is expected to present the board with a resolution for approval. The Burke building will then come before the village planning board once more for final approval on the change of use.

In other zoning board news, Michael and Joan Brosnan of 53 Franklin Avenue were approved for a 290 square foot, one-bedroom addition to their 712 square-foot home.

Michael Brosnan said he and his wife moved their twins to Sag Harbor from Montauk to take advantage of the Sag Harbor School District, but that the twins had outgrown their small bedroom.

He added the couple loved the Sag Harbor look of their home and tried to design the addition in keeping with the small Cape-style cottage.

“If we don’t become pregnant again, I won’t come before this board again,” he joked.

Virginia and Kenneth Ludacer were also granted variances to construct a two-and-a-half story addition on their home at 132 Jermain Avenue. According to architect Meryl Kramer, the home will be rehabilitated, as it is currently in poor shape, its foundation literally falling apart. In addition a back bedroom and deck will be added, while a shed in the backyard will be removed.

The village’s historic preservation and architectural review board has already supported the addition.

Jean Held also received a variance from the village pyramid law to expand her Franklin Avenue home by 832 square-feet, an expansion supported by all of Held’s neighbors.

Lastly, the application to legalize the Larry Rivers “Legs” sculpture at Ruth Vered and Janet Lehr’s Madison Street home was tabled at the request of Clayton Munsey. Munsey has represented the couple in their quest to keep the “Legs” despite it being considered an accessory structure, and illegal, under the village code. He said he was unaware it would be on the board’s January calendar.

The board granted the stay, but board chairwoman Gayle Pickering said she did not want to see adjournment as a “stalling tactic” in this case. She asked the building department to inform Munsey the matter would be heard at the board’s February 15 meeting.

Ialacci’s Benefits Restored

After having his village health insurance dropped in December, former village police chief Joseph Ialacci and his wife Nancy had their benefits restored last week by the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees.

The board dropped Ialacci’s village insurance on December 30 after they said he racked up over $70,000 in healthcare costs to the plan when Ialacci’s Medicare coverage should have been used as his primary insurance.

Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride said several attempts to work out a payment schedule with Ialacci failed, resulting in the termination, although Ialacci’s attorney, John Bracken said his client was working with the Social Security Administration, hospitals and doctors to reimburse the monies to the village.

According to Bracken, the insurance coverage was restored retroactively to the December 30 date it was rescinded. Last week, Bracken informed the board that if the insurance was not reinstated by January 14, the village could be looking at a lawsuit.

On Monday, Gilbride said the village was doing its due diligence in restoring the coverage, but that village attorneys were still looking into the matter. One issue they are exploring is whether or not the current board must legally uphold Ialacci’s personnel contract, which guarantees him coverage after retirement and was drafted by a previous board of trustees.

Concert Debate Rages On

In East Hampton Town, some Amagansett residents continue to fuel a debate over town board approval for a two-and-a-half day concert at Ocean View Farms in Amagansett, August 12 through 14.

On December 21, Sag Harbor residents Chris Jones and Bill Collage were approved by the East Hampton Town Board for a mass gathering permit to allow the MTK: Music to Know Summer Music Festival at the farm, located on Route 27 just outside downtown Amagansett.

The concert is proposed to feature two stages, 20 bands and vending areas for local businesses and restaurants. Jones and Collage said they hope to sell a maximum of 9,500 tickets to the weekend event.

Since then, a group of Amagansett residents, including members of that hamlet’s citizens advisory committee and BookHampton owner Charline Spektor have criticized the board’s decision and mounted a campaign to get the concert’s mass gathering permit rescinded.

This week, Spektor sent members of BookHampton’s e-mail list serve a letter expressing her concerns and urging residents to send letters to the town board, as well as attend a meeting tonight, Thursday, January 20.

In the letter she noted Collage and Jones have no prior experience in production or festival management, and questioned the charitable donation Collage and Jones have promised local food pantries and not-for-profits. Further, she questioned the “dangerous aspect” of a potential 20,000 concert attendees coming to Amagansett without any place to stay, or accommodations for “food, sanitary, emergency and other related issues.”

“The allegations made by Charline Spektor and distributed under her Bookhampton banner, questioning MTK festival’s commitment to donating $100,000 to local charities are completely baseless, disingenuous and frankly, mean-spirited,” replied Jones in a statement. “MTK has employed an Outreach Director who has already met with several local charities to discuss details of their inclusion and this process continues with scores of other groups, as we identify those to include. Representatives from these charities are excited and appreciative of these efforts. There never has been, nor will be any question of reneging these commitments. Further allegations from Ms Spektor concerning details of the festival, from the number of attendees to the level of professionalism and experience of the event production are also without merit. We encourage everyone who supports music and this two-day event which celebrates music, to attend a meeting this Thursday at 7 p.m. at East Hampton Town Hall.”

Commercial Mooring Field Off Sag Harbor Irks Local Residents

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Sag Harbor resident and real estate agent John Brannen has enjoyed the largely recreational waterfront of the Ninevah community for years, but with the summer season this year he says the waterfront has been marred by the creation of a commercial mooring field, just outside of Sag Harbor Village waters, that boasts 60 to 70 moorings.

On Tuesday, August 10 Brannen approached the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees in hopes of finding a solution to the problem, which he says has created safety issues and has disrupted his rights as a waterfront property owner.

“I think commercially we have an obligation to regulate that business,” said Brannen. “I live on the beach in Ninevah, I have a boat and my navigation is being obscured, recreation is being obscured and I don’t know what is being dumped in the water.”

Deputy Mayor Tim Culver, the board’s liaison to the village’s harbors and docks, said he agreed with Brannen, but that the village’s hands are tied as the moorings have been erected just outside the village’s jurisdiction and is in New York State controlled waters. Culver said under state law, a person can erect just 10 moorings without a permit.

“It’s not like it is state water and they are just dropping an anchor,” said Brannen. “This is impacting us tremendously and we need to do something about it.”

Culver said he was working with Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. to find a solution, but Thiele added it would likely be something the state would have to address, not the village.

“It’s dangerous, and this is a historically recreational area that is now becoming housing in our bay,” said Brannen, who said the moorings are so numerous they literally extend across the bay.

Brannen said he would like to see the water preserved as a state park for recreation only, although Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said it would likely be easier to simply restrict moorings there instead.

Anita Rainford, representing the Azurest Property Owners Association said she was aware of the problem as well, and that the situation has led to pirating. Rainford said she has had her anchor and pick-up buoy stolen this season, when in year’s past it was safe enough for her to leave her keys on her boat.

In other village news, the board adopted a local law on Tuesday night that expands the residency requirements for any elected Sag Harbor village justice to include legal professionals in Southampton and East Hampton towns. It is also in ongoing talks about plans to revamp parking in Sag Harbor for next summer and legalize music in the village, both of which will be discussed at the board’s next meeting on Tuesday, September 13.

The board also formally denied the John Jermain Memorial Library’s request to extend the village wastewater treatment service to the library to accommodate plans for an expansion at that site. The library will now have to work with the Suffolk County Health Department to obtain permits for an on-site system at their Main Street facility.

Lastly, Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano was given permission to hire David Scott Discoll as a full-time police officer at a starting salary of $87,610.

Proposed Apartment Law in Sag Harbor Draws Criticism

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For several months now, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has listened as a parade of residents have continually reinforced the fact there are likely hundreds of illegal apartments in Sag Harbor, each resident detailing the likelihood their own neighbors are likely in on the practice.

Without naming names, of course.

The speakers, which have appeared in a series of village board meetings, have spoken in support of, and opposition to, plans to expand an accessory apartment law in the village that would legitimize some existing, illegal apartments.

The expansion of the law would allow about 50 residents, who can show they have illegally operated an apartment in an outbuilding such as a barn or garage for five consecutive years, the ability to bring those units up to code and become legal rentals with amnesty. Two years ago, under then-mayor Gregory Ferraris, the village passed similar legislation targeted at those with illegal units within their primary residences with just a handful coming forward to bring their units up to code.

According to trustee Robby Stein, who spearheaded the expansion with former deputy mayor Tiffany Scarlato, the law is meant to address the safety issues inherent in illegal apartments, while simultaneously opening up a greater stock of rental housing in Sag Harbor.

However, as the board revises the draft legislation and continues public hearings, the law has recently come under fire by some village residents who have expressed concerns about it not protecting neighborhoods from too many apartments and other density issues. In addition, the fairness of the law has been questioned, as has the ability for village code enforcement to truly crack down on those not willing to legalize their units once the law is adopted.

During a village board meeting on Tuesday night, the tone was no different.

Stein opened the discussion by stating he wanted to see the issue left open to the public, while village officials continue to re-draft the law to address these concerns.

Deputy mayor Tim Culver said density was one issue, in particular, he would like to see addressed, specifically how to ensure 10 of the 50 units approved in the pilot program do not end up in one neighborhood.

That was just one of several concerns resident Paul Zaykowski said he had with the law, which he charged was so full of holes a truck could drive right through it.

Zaykowski started by stating he does not believe the expansion of the law will help affordable housing in the village, noting many village properties are owned as investments, and that a majority of these accessory units would not likely be rented to children by their parents in hopes of keeping them in Sag Harbor.

“I would be all for Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones renting out so their kids can stay here,” he said, adding the law would more likely be used as an income generator by people who already have enough money to purchase a $2 million home in Sag Harbor. Zaykowski also wondered what happens to those who don’t bring their units up to code.

Gilbride said once the law is passed, sometime this fall, village code enforcement will inventory the village in search of illegal units and cite them.

“That is going to cause a ton of disruption,” said Zaykowski, asking why code enforcement has not dealt with the numerous illegal apartments in the village already, or leave well enough alone.

“The problem is now that this has reared its head something has to happen,” said Gilbride.

“Part of it is hopefully for affordability, but the other part is for safety,” added Stein.

Zaykowski also questioned why someone who has broken the law for a number of years is given amnesty, and why he, as someone who has not broken the law and paid their taxes, would not be allowed to capitalize on the accessory apartment law by building his own unit.

“Your point is a good one,” said Stein, saying in the future, if they meet code, he would see no problem allowing new units to be built in the village.

“This is the first stage,” said Stein. “Let’s get what we know is out there in compliance.”

“If you really believe this is a safety issue and know they are out there, you should be enforcing the current law,” said former mayor and Sag Harbor resident Pierce Hance. “If there is a clear and present danger you should be acting on it. That is where the village responsibility lies and you are not acting on it.”

Hance said he doubted the law would ultimately help affordable housing in the village on either end of the spectrum and encouraged the board to deal with what is out there now before changing the law.

“Let’s enforce the code, get a level playing field without safety issues and then address what to do,” said Hance. “Let’s not award the bank robber after he is gone and give him the money anyway.”

Sag Harbor Village Trustees Look to Tackle West Water Street Erosion

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The Village of Sag Harbor hopes to tackle erosion on West Water Street that has threatened a waterfront embankment and adjacent roadway this fall, according to Mayor Brian Gilbride.

Last December, after receiving word from superintendent of public works Jim Early that the embankment had been damaged for the fourth time that year due to stormy weather, Gilbride reached out to village planning consultant Richard Warren about developing a plan for the area, rather than what he called “the band aid” approach of revitalizing the shoreline with sand and rocks.

“There is some [Federal Emergency Management Agency] money available for the damage down there and some grant monies as well,” said Gilbride on Wednesday. “We are hoping to be able to go in there and do the repair in one shot and get away from this band aid approach, although a lot still has to happen for that to occur.”

At the recommendation of Warren, the village board hired Steve Maresca during a board of trustees re-organizational meeting Wednesday morning, to design an erosion control plan for the embankment at West Water Street, as well as timber steps from the street level to the water level and a wood boardwalk.

In other village news, Trustee Tim Culver was named Deputy Mayor, taking over the duty from former trustee Tiffany Scarlato who did not seek re-election last month. Benedetta Deubel and Michael Bromberg were reappointed to the zoning board of appeals for five-year terms, and Dr. Tom Halton and Jeff Peters were reappointed to the Harbor Committee for three-year terms. According to Gilbride, Harbor Committee member Nancy Haynes has yet to let the village know if she would like to continue her term on the committee.

The village also hired Larry Indimine to perform an appraisal of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) property adjacent to the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge. According to Gilbride, the village intends to bid on the property, which will be up for public auction later this month. The board also agreed to use monies from the village contingency account to prepare the village’s bid and for possible acquisition of the parcel if the village is the successful bidder.

Trustee Robby Stein said he had several community members, and Save Sag Harbor, ask if there is a fund to contribute to for the purchase of the property. Village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said the village could set up a separate account for such a donation.

Lastly, the board agreed to perform an updated energy use inventory of municipal buildings with the aid of 725 GREEN. In 2008, the village performed a similar survey.

According to a letter submitted by 725 GREEN member Sumner Pingree, 725 GREEN has received a small grant enabling them to hire a college intern to perform the assessment with Pingree, at no cost to the village.

“With your leadership, we believe such information will promote over time greater efficiency of operations, real cost savings, better decision making and planning, as well as a more competitive stance by which the village can pursue federal, state and local funding for priority retrofit, energy efficiency and conservation projects,” said Pingree in his request.

Access to Waterfront an Issue on Notre Dame Road

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webNotreDame

Discussion continued at the Sag Harbor Village Board meeting on Tuesday, June 8 over whether or not a strip of waterfront land off Notre Dame Road in Sag Harbor belongs to adjacent property owners Sarah and Mathew Hastings or was meant to provide village residents access to the water.

Despite the ongoing nature of the issue, discourse between the trustees and Tim McCully, the Hastings’ attorney, was undeniably heated.

McCully appeared in front of the board on the Hastings’ behalf and urged a speedy resolution of the issue so that the Hastings could proceed with their building plans to demolish their current residence and rebuild a new structure on the property, using the aforementioned strip.

Whether or not the Hastings can use this strip of land changes the number of variances they will need for the new construction, and the placement of their new septic system.

To this the trustees responded that they would protect citizens’ right to access the waterfront “vigorously,” if necessary. As Trustee Tiffany Scarlato noted in a previous meeting, if the land is village property it should rightfully be left public under the Local Water Revitalization Plan (LWRP), which requires the village to protect and encourage access to the waterfront.

Village trustees have also maintained that while McCully was able to obtain a quit claim deed to the sliver of land from descendents of the original property owner, it is the village’s position that the property was always meant to be an access to water, similar to other access points in the neighborhood.

It was not only in the Sag Harbor Municipal Building that the topic was debated, however. Mayor Brian Gilbride noted the village has received word from a neighbor concerned with the fact that the Hastings have retained the deed to the sliver of land and are seeking ownership of the parcel. This was the first correspondence from neighbors supporting the village’s decision to fight the Hastings to keep the property open for public access.

The letter, from Victor Behoriam and Darlene Miller, states that allowing the Hastings to continue with their plans using the strip of land would “set a precedent that future boards of trustees may be unable to afford to resist.” Behoriam and Miller’s letter describes the land as rightfully belonging to “taxpaying landowners in this village” who should all share equal access to the waterfront, and confidently offers to gather the voices of other residents from the area who would also “vociferously oppose this request.”

Local Attorney Sues Sag Harbor Village Over Justice Court

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Sag Harbor attorney Patricia Weiss has sued the Village of Sag Harbor over the village’s creation of the elective office of village justice and the appointed position of acting village justice.

This is not the first time Weiss has filed suit against the village in connection to the justice court. In 2006, she was successful in halting the creation of a village justice court, after the New York State Supreme Court ruled the village had not officially passed a resolution creating the court. Last fall, village officials revived talks about creating a court in Sag Harbor and in May took the first step in that process by creating the position of village justice after six months of public hearings.

In a suit filed with the United States District Court’s East District clerk this week, Weiss charges that the creation of the positions, both of which can be filled by individuals who are non-lawyers and who have not been law-trained and yet can nevertheless incarcerate persons coming before a Sag Harbor Village Justice court, is a violation of Weiss’s constitutional rights.

Weiss argues that under New York State law, legislation has yet to be adopted that would ensure the positions were filled by law-trained attorneys, and while the elected term for village justice would be four years, the state only provides training for two weeks per year, with a limited bit of unsupervised home-study.

Such limited training is inadequate for the functions of Village Justice, writes Weiss.

Weiss argues the creation of a less adequate justice court in Sag Harbor, when the town courts have the resources and training to handle cases currently, deprives her of her constitutional rights.

She also charges in creating the office of justice this May, the village deliberately selected a date that would be out of sync with village elections, depriving the electorate the right to at least one elected village justice. Weiss states that the village and county’s registers for recent elections are outdated, making it impossible for a resident to collect the necessary 20 percent of village resident signatures required to force an election on the establishment of village justice. She also charges the village does not intend to properly finance or house the proposed justice court and that the use of the Municipal Building as a justice court could compromise the structural integrity of the historic building.

All of these charges, says Weiss, are violations of her constitutional rights.

Weiss asks the court to prohibit the village from making judicial appointments or accepting nominating petitions from non-lawyers while her case is being heard, and if successful asks the court to demand any justice for the village court be law-trained, and elected by village voters. She also asks the village provide an “accurate list of registered voters in the village who are still residents and eligible to vote and have voted in the last gubernatorial or presidential election” and allow her 30 days to gather signatures to force a vote on the creation of village justice.

On Wednesday, Weiss declined to comment on the case, except to say the “matter is now in the very capable hands of judge Joseph Bianco.”

Village officials, however, were not so mum.

“We had ample public hearings and at no point, other than when

Marshall Garypie spoke, did Patty or anyone else for that matter, make any comments about this,” said Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride. “This is going to cost the village money to defend and maybe that is her goal. It’s sad that she had the chance to speak in a public process. She chose not to do that and instead inflict monetary pain on the residents of Sag Harbor.”

Deputy mayor Tiffany Scarlto echoed the sentiment, adding many of the issues Weiss has raised are constitutional issues with state law, not village law, and that she expects the state attorney general’s office will get involved with the case.

“The biggest disappointment, personally, is that the village is going to once again have to expend a great deal of money to defend a lawsuit that is unnecessary and for all intents and purposes is about state law,” said Scarlato.

Before Cuts, Sag Harbor Village Budget Up Six Percent

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Plugging the wish lists of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees and those of all the department heads into the next year’s draft budget would result in a six percent spending increase over last year’s approved budget, according to village treasurer Eileen Touhy.

But following a worksession on Friday, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the board would pare down the tax increase before the budget is formally presented to taxpayers. Gilbride also said the village would look into ways to increase revenues, including through the possible expansion of Long Wharf.

The nearly $8 million draft spending plan includes $104,350 to fund the creation and staffing of a proposed village justice court. Other big-ticket items on the wish list include $250,000 for a new boat for the fire department and a $100,000 increase in the contingency account to a total of $120,000 that Gilbride said was being set aside to cover repairs to the various municipal buildings.

Sag Harbor fire chief Robert Mitchell has also applied for a grant from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the replacement of the department’s air packs, which would cost between $320,000 and $390,000. But the chief has yet to hear whether the grant will be awarded to Sag Harbor; if the village budgets for the expenditure, it will no longer be in contention for the grant.

Touhy explained that both the boat and the packs, if budgeted, would come out of the village’s capital reserve fund, which the budget pays down annually.

The chief said the department currently has four different kinds of packs which could present a safety hazard should a volunteer grab the wrong canister. Only 12 of the packs, he said, are from 2007, and neighboring fire districts are already using an even higher standard of air pack.

“I’ve got some bottles from the 1970s still,” he said.

While the state has been handing out grants to other fire departments, a grant award could come as late as October. Board members Tiffany Scarlato and Robby Stein said the trustees should reach out to New York State Senator Charles Schumer to see whether Sag Harbor is a likely candidate, or whether trustees should consider budgeting the expense.

Expansion of Long Wharf?

Looking at a $50,000 shortfall in revenues from the village’s harbors and docks, Gilbride said the board had looked at possibly raising the cost for resident slips in the village, but discovered Sag Harbor’s rates were on par with what other municipalities charge.

However, after consulting with former mayor and village trustee John Ward, Gilbride said he would like to consider expanding dockage at Long Wharf to boost revenues. After consulting with village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr., Gilbride said he believed the village could obtain state permits for the expansion, which would add two fingers to Long Wharf. The village needed to plan, and price, the project, he added before moving forward.

Gilbride also mentioned he would consider renting the west side of Long Wharf for a few more weekends than the board has already approved. At the request of the Harbor Committee, they allowed one yacht to lease the space for holiday weekends, leaving the west side open to the public the remainder of the season. Harbor Master Bob Bori said the village could see an additional $20,000 in revenue if they allowed yachts to lease additional weekends on the west side.

The board empowered Bori to advertise for the rental of the west side of Long Wharf as well as for the village’s transient docks, which now accept advance booking.

“A lot of people don’t know we are taking reservations for transient slips, which we have never done before,” he said. “This way they know when they are coming from Connecticut that they have a slip waiting for them in Sag Harbor.”

MTA Payroll Tax

Sag Harbor Village is also anticipating spending just over $10,000 to cover its share of the Metropolitan Transit Authority payroll tax, although Touhy noted there is state legislation pending that would reduce the cost of the tax on Long Island and other counties outside the five boroughs of New York City. That legislation would reduce the amount of tax on businesses and municipalities in outer counties from $0.34 to $0.17 per $100 of payroll while increasing the tax in the boroughs to $.054 per $100 of payroll.

In addition, New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle and state assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. have joined assemblyman Marc Alessi of Wading River in co-sponsoring legislation that may create the Peconic Bay Regional Transit Authority, which would replace the MTA on the East End, on November’s ballot.

Law enforcement is looking at a two-percent increase as currently budgeted, which includes the addition of a 13th police officer. Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Thomas Fabiano said most of the other increases in his department were contractual in nature. Three years ago, New York State issued a report on the Sag Harbor Village Police Department that said the department should increase its police force by two officers. The addition of this officer will still leave the department one shy of that recommendation.

The police department, fire department and volunteer ambulance department have all seen the cost of radio dispatch raised this year, although volunteer ambulance president Ed Downes noted his department has seen an estimated $14,147 increase for their dispatch alone to a total of $95,353.

All three departments contract with the Village of East Hampton for the service, as does the Bridgehampton Fire Department. The village’s police dispatch is estimated to rise from $41,071 to $45,960 and the fire department’s from $39,762 to $41,790.

“How do they come up with these figures,” asked Trustee Scarlato.

While Downes said the figure is supposed to be based on calls, he believes his department actually saw a decrease in the number of calls it received this year.

Village Clerk Sandra Schroeder said she would reach out to East Hampton Village’s administrator Larry Cantwell about the figures and ask about the formula they use to calculate the cost.

The next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on the draft budget will be held on Friday, March 26 at 4 p.m.