Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees"

Looks Like Three for Mayor

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With June elections fast approaching, it’s shaping up to be an interesting campaign season as three prospective candidates have tentatively announced their candidacy for the position of Sag Harbor Village Mayor so far. Current mayor Greg Ferraris, whose term is up in June, told The Express in early February he wouldn’t seek re-election. Also up this June are two village trustee seats, including Ed Deyermond’s position. He, too, said he would not seek re-election. Ed Gregory, who holds the other available trustee seat, is undecided.

 According to Ferraris, one of the chief reasons for his decision to not run again was the amount of time he needed to devote to his mayoral responsibilities while also running an accounting business in recent years.

 “The demands on the position have increased over the three years I have been here, and well over the six years that I have served on the village board,” said Ferraris in February. “[Village] issues have become more complex. The demands on the village board from residents have increased.”

 With the mayoral position up for grabs, the village board might witness a little reshuffling as two Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustee members, Tiffany Scarlato and Brian Gilbride, have announced their intentions to run for mayor — although Gilbride says he hasn’t yet made a formal decision. Also throwing his hat into the ring is Jim Henry, a Sag Harbor attorney, author, business consultant and a 2007 Democratic candidate for Southampton Town Supervisor who recently picked up a petition from village hall and has expressed his intention to run for mayor.

 Scarlato has been on the board of trustees for almost six years, and is serving her third term on the board. Scarlato reported that when she first heard Ferraris would not run again, she “begged” him to reconsider, though he remained steadfast in his decision.

 “After I finished begging him, I decided it was a possibility [for me to run for mayor,]” said Scarlato.

 Currently, Scarlato is an assistant town attorney for East Hampton, though she added she doesn’t believe this will present a conflict of interest should she be elected mayor. Prior to becoming a village trustee, Scarlato said she conducted extensive research to make sure her two positions wouldn’t conflict. Of her interest in becoming mayor, Scarlato added that she has the energy to tackle the position, and ample experience in village affairs. Scarlato was also one of the main village officials who pushed to update the current village zoning code.

 Among the chief concerns for the next mayor, Scarlato said the village budget would be at the top of her priority list should she be elected.

 “I think the biggest issue [for the village right now] is fiscal responsibility,” said Scarlato. “I would focus most of my attention on that. The board as a whole has done a good job to pare down the budget and be as fiscally responsible as possible, but it has to be kept up.”

 Also considering a mayoral run is Sag Harbor Village Trustee Brian Gilbride who has been a mainstay on the village board for the past 15 years, and served as deputy mayor for nearly four years.

 “I am still thinking through it, but I am leaning towards saying yes,” said Gilbride of his mayoral candidacy.

 Aside from being a trustee, Gilbride has worked for the village in many different capacities. In 1966, he was hired by the village as an employee of the highway department, which led to a position with the maintenance department. Previously, Gilbride also served as the chief of the village fire department. He feels that his relationship with the village will help him, if he were to become mayor.

 “I worked with a lot of good people [in the village],” he said. “I have an understanding of how the village works, and I look forward to help continuing the way things are going now.”

 Seven years ago, Gilbride left a position with Norsic, the sanitation services company based on Long Island. As a retiree, Gilbride reports he isn’t “the least bit worried” about the amount of hours the village mayor puts into the position. Of the challenges facing the mayor, however, Gilbride reiterated Scarlato’s belief that fiscal and budgetary issues will be the chief issues the village will face in the coming year.

 “Hopefully the zoning code will be put to bed … Things are a little tough with the economy, but we [the village] are very conservative and started planning a year ago,” said Gilbride.

 Although the other prospective candidate, Jim Henry, hasn’t served on the village board, he has run for town office (Henry lost the 2007 supervisor’s race Linda Kabot), and also has business and economic experience. Henry created the Sag Harbor Group, a consulting firm for technology-based businesses. As an author, Henry has written investigative books on economical mismanagement and also pieces for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Nation, among others. 

 No candidates have stepped forward yet for the two trustee seats.

 In Sag Harbor, prospective mayoral and trustee candidates are permitted to submit signed petitions beginning March 31. The elections will be held on June 16.

 Over the bridge, two North Haven Village trustee seats will be open for election in June. The trustees currently holding the positions are Jeff Sander, a Main Street building owner, and Jim Smyth, the owner of The Corner Bar. In addition, two seats on the Sagaponack Village board will also be up for grabs come June. These seats are currently occupied by Alfred Kelman and Joy Seiger. No candidates have yet come forward to announce their intention to run for the positions in either village.

Above: Photos of Trustee Scarlato, Trustee Gilbride and Jim Henry. 

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.

Bikers’ Uphill Climb

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A heated debate broke out at the end of Tuesday’s Sag Harbor Board of Trustees meeting over the safety of bike riding on Main Street. Trustee Ed Deyermond said a proposal to allow bike travel from the flag pole to Spring Street in the village is “an accident waiting to happen.” Deyermond remained firmly opposed to the idea, and more than half the board agrees with him.

Considering board opposition, it will be an uphill battle for Sag Harbor cyclists to bike down Main Street. During the meeting, Sinead Fitzgibbon, founder of the local bike advocacy group Spokes People, continued to defend her group’s position.
Fitzgibbon stated that cyclists and motorists have equal access to all public roads under a provision of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. In Fitzgibbon’s opinion, the ordinance disallowing bike travel through Main Street is virtually unenforceable.
In an interview after the meeting, Fitzgibbon’s zeal for Main Street bike travel had tempered somewhat. She said her group will continue to explore the option of bike travel along Main Street, but will now focus on creating alternative routes for bike travel along other village streets.
“I totally understand where the board is coming from … I am happy to stir the pot [on this issue] but it is not how I want to deal with the village all the time. I look forward to working with the board,” said Fitzgibbon who believes a compromise with the trustees will be the best option for everyone.
“[The bike routes] have to work for everyone or they are not going to work at all,” she said.
According to Deyermond, a designated bike route along the roads surrounding Main Street is a practical solution in facilitating cyclist access to the village. During the meeting, Deyermond said an addition of a bike lane on Main Street was “out of the question” because of New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. When Deyermond was village mayor in 2003, he explored allowing bike travel along Main Street as part of his Traffic Calming Project. Representatives of the DOT told him Main Street was too narrow, and the diagonal parking was too problematic, for the installation of a bike lane.
Board member Tiffany Scarlato supports creating a designated village bike route, as long as it does not require additional pavement markings. She believes the village lacks the funds to pay for these markings. Scarlato also said cyclist access to the village has become an inflated issue.
“Southampton Village prohibits biking down Main Street,” said Scarlato who added that this didn’t seem to inconvenience Southampton Village residents. Scarlato believes Sag Harbor cyclists can hop off their bike when they reach the village and wheel their bikes through Main Street. She said she understood Fitzgibbon’s position, but the board has a responsibility to maintain road safety for all of the village residents.
The board urged Fitzgibbon to meet with police chief Tom Fabiano to brainstorm ideas for a designated village bike route. In addition, Fitzgibbon contacted Village Attorney Fred Thiele, Jr., to discuss the legality of the ordinance prohibiting Main Street bike travel. A public hearing date, however, hasn’t been set.

A hot topic also on the agenda was the passing of a local workforce housing law. According to village mayor, Greg Ferraris, New York State mandated last year that all Long Island municipalities adopt the Long Island Workforce Housing Act. Ferraris believes the mandate forces municipalities to address the issue of affordable housing, but Sag Harbor has already incorporated affordable housing legislation into the new village zoning code. When the new zoning code goes into effect, said Ferraris, it will supersede the Long Island Workforce Housing Act.
The Long Island Workforce Housing Act stipulates that any developer seeking to build five or more units would receive a density bonus of at least 10 percent, with all units created through the bonus being affordable workforce units. The developer has three choices for how to meet the affordable housing provision: by providing on-site housing, by building the housing elsewhere, or by paying into an affordable housing fund.
At the meeting, Sag Harbor resident Bill Chaleff commended the state for addressing the need for affordable housing.
“It is no longer possible for us to keep our head in the sand about this issue. Every other municipality needs to do something about this,” said Chaleff.
Of the housing fund payment provision, however, he said “The temptation to use payment as a way out is too strong … Payment should be used as a last resort.”
This provision could potentially allow developers to pocket millions from selling their property, while only a few hundred thousand would end up in the housing trust. Ferraris, however, believes a housing fund is a pragmatic solution considering the cost of development in the village.
A public hearing on the new village code has been scheduled for January 29.
During the meeting, the Sag Harbor Cinema sign was also designated as an historic landmark
Long Isla

Sag Harbor Moves Forward With Permits for Special Events

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Large scale events and parties in the Village of Sag Harbor will likely come under the scrutiny of the board of trustees under a new permit process the board is expected to be adopted next month. A public hearing on the subject last week failed to garner much public disapproval of the plan.

On Wednesday, November 12, the board held a hearing on the proposed law, which would restrict the number of large parties or events an organization or residence can host that boasts 75 people or more. Prohibited and restricted events in the law include those that are largely for profit or if the purpose is to advertise a product with the exception of the sale of local produce, baked goods and food products. Once the law is adopted, people who decide to hold their event without a permit may be subject to a $2,000 fine for the first offense, and as much as $10,000 for the second offense, as well as a year in jail.

Wednesday night’s hearing brought just two residents to the podium for comment, the first of whom was relieved to hear the board had added an exemption clause for events like funerals and weddings at local churches — events that may not be able to meet the deadline for filing for the permit, which is 60 days prior to the event. 

David Cory, a chairperson of the historic committee at the First Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church, said his concern was ensuring the law did not have unintended consequences, noting many area churches are in residential areas. In addition to weddings and funerals, many of which bring in more than 75 people per event, said Cory, the Old Whalers’ Church hosts a number of annual events like Hamptons Music Festival concerts, the Sweet Adelines and community Christmas programs, all that bring in a number of community members.

“Our concern is, is the church going to be restricted from what churches have to do,” asked Cory.

“This legislation is not meant to restrict the church or any other non-profit from doing what it is already doing,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris. Ferraris explained the village has added a provision to the law that provides the opportunity for a waiver through the village clerk with the permission of two trustees for events like funerals and weddings. A more formal waiver process is also in place for those organizations seeking to host more events than allowed per calendar year.

Only one special event permit will be issued per calendar year for parcels in a residential zoning district, according to the draft law, with parcels in all other zoning districts limited to three per calendar year, only one of which can be held at night. Properties owned by not-for-profits or charitable organizations can hold as many as six per year.

Zach Studenroth, director of the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, said he wanted to reiterate Cory’s concerns, but added that the Whaling Museum “is making some moves in the direction of exploring the idea of using the property for expanded rental purposes” given the current economic climate.

Studenroth said he did not envision the museum moving towards hosting events that are extreme, but would look at two or three rental events in the backyard, which would be an increased use of the property. Studenroth did not elaborate on what events the museum would consider hosting as a revenue source.

“I don’t think our intention is to have you go through this for the clambake,” said Ferraris, although Trustee Tiffany Scarlato said that she was unsure what rental events Studenroth was alluding to in the future and would therefore be unable to say whether those would fall into a category that would need a permit, or would even be allowed.

“It is important to note that events are looked at on a case by case basis,” said Scarlato. “And the intent of the legislation is there is a review process so the board is aware, the police are aware and the neighbors are aware. I think that is important.”

The board is expected to adopt the new law at its December 9 board meeting.

Assessment

In other news, the board adopted a resolution on Wednesday that formally terminated the village’s role as an assessment body for village property taxes, turning over the reins to the Town of Southampton.

Sag Harbor already contracts with the town to perform its assessments, and according to village trustee and town tax assessor Ed Deyermond, this move is simply an effort to eliminate duplication and overlap in the grievance and assessment process. As is, residents on the Southampton side of the village have their taxes evaluated almost a year and a half apart — and the work of village and town officials is virtually doubled, said Deyermond.

Southampton Town residents in the village will now grieve both their town and village taxes in front of the town assessment board, while East Hampton Town residents will continue to grieve their town taxes in East Hampton and their village taxes in Southampton.

According to Ferraris, the town will continue to provide unofficial assessment advice to village residents in the months leading up to Grievance Day in Sag Harbor.