Tag Archive | "sag harbor village planning board"

Planning Board Begins Review of New Harbor Heights Plan

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Several members of Save Sag Harbor urged the Sag Harbor Planning Board on Tuesday to tread lightly as it reviews a new application to redevelop the Harbor Heights service station.

Speaking for the organization, Hilary Loomis told the board that when the village Zoning Board of Appeals granted a variance for the project last February, allowing a portion of the existing building to be converted into a convenience store, it stipulated that the “existing foundation and walls remain.” Now, the property’s owner, Petroleum Ventures, is calling for a new structure with new walls and roof, she said.

She urged the board to refer the matter back to the ZBA because, she said, replacing the building would remove any pre-existing, nonconforming rights that go with the property, which is a commercial use in a residential zone.

The board began its review of Petroleum Venture’s latest application just two months ago. An earlier effort by the company, which is owned by John Leonard, to redevelop the site was highly controversial. Alter years of review before the planning board and ZBA, it was effectively curtailed by the ZBA when that board granted a single variance allowing a portion of the existing gas station to be used for a 600-square-foot convenience store.

In its new plan, besides the convenience store, the company wants to redevelop a garage, office and customer service area, utility and storage room and two restrooms in the 1,855 –square-foot building. A new 1,244-square-foot garage behind the main building would d remain as is. The plans also call for moving the fueling island to a more central location, away from Hampton Street and under a 15-foot canopy. The number of fuel dispensers would be reduced from eight to six, and two curb cuts would be put in to control access to the site. The plans also call for a new sanitary system and the creation of a 30-foot wide landscaped buffer around its perimeter.

“I think they’ve listened to the public and they’ve listened to the ZBA,” said Richard Warren, the village environmental consultant. When it first reviewed the earlier project, the planning board issued a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which means it did not require an environmental impact statement.  “I don’t see any reason why this board wouldn’t adopt a negative ruling for an amended application,” said Mr. Warren. “I’m hopeful the firestorm that was here before has gone out.”

Before the board can proceed, Mr. Warren said the village engineer, P.W. Grosser Consulting, had requested that the plans show that tank trucks as well as emergency vehicles would be able to negotiate the turning radius in front of the station and that the applicant provide information on site disturbance and drainage. The board also requested Suffolk County Department of Health Services approval.

The planning board asked the ZBA, Harbor Committee and Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review to weigh in on the plans last month. Only members of the ARB, who said they were concerned about plans for the canopy and lighting, offered any criticism of the plan.

Planning Board chairman Greg Ferraris said the board would most likely vote to become the “lead agency” on the application, which means it would coordinate its review under SEQRA.

Harbor Edge Condos

Roy Wines, the contractor for the Harbor’s Edge condominiums, which are nearing completion, sought the board’s help in rectifying a problem that has held up the issuance of tax map numbers for the 15 units. The problem is, the village does not have an updated survey showing that the number of units was reduced from a proposed 19 to just 15.

Mr. Wines surmised that the paperwork was not properly updated during the truncated review process, which saw the project come to a halt and a change in both  architects and ownership during the financial crisis.

Doris Alvarez, the board’s secretary, said there was “no documents supporting the change from 19 to 15” units in the file.

But board members were amenable to helping out, with Mr. Ferraris telling Mr. Wines the matter would be resolved as soon as he submitted an accurate site plan.

Sag Harbor Village to Target Illegal Rentals

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By Mara Certic

Like all municipalities on the South Fork, contending with overcrowding, parking and noise from share houses or illegal short-term rentals in the Sag Harbor is a challenge. But according to village attorney Denise Schoen it is not a challenge the village will take lightly this summer.

Rental-by-owner websites such as VRBO, AirBnB and HomeAway have hundreds of houses to rent in Sag Harbor Village; many of which offer rentals for very short periods of time and claim to offer sleeping arrangements for a worrying number of people, according to Ms. Schoen.

In the village, it is illegal to rent a home in short-term capacity, Ms. Schoen said this week. Although there is no specific provision defining the minimum length of stay allowed for a renter, the occupancy of houses in the village must be “permanent, or tantamount to permanent,” according to the village code.

“If we’re able to prove by presenting enough facts to a judge that they’re renting the house on a short-term basis, they are going to automatically fall outside the permitted use of the zone,” Ms. Schoen said.

Ms. Schoen said those who rent their houses for the full summer season do not have to worry that they are operating outside the law. “Obviously, Sag Harbor is a resort community,” she said. But short-term rentals, she added, can be very disruptive within a community.

“There’s no control over quality-of-life issues for neighbors, ” said Ms. Schoen, noting anonymous complaints have already been logged with the village about these kinds of rentals.

This week, of the 183 houses advertised on one rent-by-owner website, only 25 of them had a minimum rental period of 30 days or more— with many offering a two-night minimum stay during certain parts of the season.

East Hampton and Southampton Towns both have specific rental provisions in their codes. Southampton does not allow rentals for a period of less than 14 days. The law in East Hampton is slightly different, stating that a single-family residence may only be rented out for a period shorter than 14 days three times within a six-month period.

Ms. Schoen said that believes that adopting a specific rental law in Sag Harbor might be a way to buck the disturbing rental trend.

A provision in the village code allows for private homes to run bed-and-breakfasts within Sag Harbor’s residential zones if a permit is issued by the village planning board. In those cases there are many restrictions, such as a limit of four guests at one time, and a two-night maximum stay.

However, few of the two-or three-night rentals listed on rent-by owner websites fell under the B&B criteria. One house “two minutes from the center of town” charges more than $1,000 a night throughout the summer season and claims to sleep 13, despite stating that it has only three bedrooms.

Ms. Schoen said she is most concerned about overcrowding in the smaller houses within the central village area. Not only is this a matter of legality and quality-of-life, but there are also health and safety concerns.

A particularly worrying discovery on these rental websites is that quite a few of the houses are advertised as having cottages. “How many of those cottages are legal? And if they’re not legal, I’m even more concerned about the health and safety issues because that means they don’t have a C of O for sleeping,” she said.

The fear is that the detached structures might not have fire protection; the “cottages” are “built differently than other houses; they burn faster,” said Ms. Schoen, who has been a volunteer with the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps for over a decade. The worry in a village as small as this one is that a fire on one property could quickly spread to another.

Although no official complaints have been logged with the village clerk in the last year, more than one anonymous grievance has been made to officials about rentals causing garbage, parking and noise problems.

“It was very hard for [these neighbors] to enjoy their backyards anymore because it was just constant parties because it was a different group of people every week,” Ms. Schoen said.

Building Inspector Tim Platt has had some success writing letters and stopping illegal “party rentals” in the summer season, when houses are rented out for one-night only for blowout celebrations, like prom. When a homeowner is cited by the village for an illegal rental, their only recourse to fight the charge is in Sag Harbor Village Justice Court.

The part-time code enforcement officer in the summer has focused more in the past on problems of overcrowdings in the business district. Ms. Schoen said that the lack of this resource might be why “the word isn’t out there that there’s a possibility you could be cited; there’s no fear on anyone’s part.”

Ms. Schoen urged residents to inform the building department if they are concerned that illegal, or dangerous, rentals are going in Sag Harbor. “We will take complaints very seriously,” she said. “So if a neighbor sees a situation where a short-term rental is taking place, especially in overcrowding situations, they should call down to village hall, to the building department, and we’ll check it out.


Meeting on Harbor Heights Proposal Rescheduled

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The date for the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board’s highly anticipated public forum on a proposal to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 has been re-scheduled. This came after the village discovered the board would not have a quorum for all applications slated for the Tuesday, January 24 meeting.

The planning board has instead moved the meeting to Tuesday, February 7, where it will convene with a work session at 5:30 p.m. and enter its regular meeting at 6 p.m.

The planning board has asked the public to weigh in on its environmental review of John Leonard’s proposal to re-develop the dilapidated gas station and service station, creating new curb cuts, relocating gas pumps deeper into the property and creating a new convenience store on the site. The forum, noted Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren at last month’s planning board meeting, is not meant to bring people to the podium to discuss whether or not they like the project, but rather to make sure the planning board is addressing all potential issues.

Questions Raised Over Harbor Heights Project

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By Kathryn G. Menu

John Leonard’s plans for a new Harbor Heights Gas Station was met with interest by members of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board last week, but a number of outstanding questions remain before the project can be formally reviewed by village boards.

On Tuesday, December 28, Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes gave the planning board its first glimpse at the proposed project, which aims to demolish the existing 1,874 square foot gas station on Route 114 and replace it with a new 1,842 square foot building. Within the gas station, Leonard proposes a 600 square-foot “country market.” The project would also expand the Sag Harbor Service Station, a business owned by Gregory Miller, from 1,245 square feet to 1,595 square feet.

The architecture, by James Laspesa, resembles a home rather than a gas station, said Downes, and will incorporate landscaping into a now shrub-free parcel.

The project will also create a safer entry and exit to the station through a New York State Department of Transportation approved curb cut, said Downes, giving the gas station a formal entry and exit for the first time in its existence.

Gas pumps would be moved off the street to the north side of the property and covered with a standard gas station canopy. If approved the station would have six pumps, as opposed to its current four, however, Downes noted one of the new pumps would take the place of an above ground diesel fuel tank.

One issue that has already arisen is the addition of the canopy. Currently, the station doesn’t have one — meaning attendant Pam Kern must brave the elements to do her job on days of inclement weather.

Downes said Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt has decided to treat the canopy as an accessory structure, while Downes said it is a part of the principal, gas station use.

The canopy, in part, he added, is also designed to allow self-service at the station and Downes said he would request another opinion from Platt.
The project will need a number of variances from the village zoning board of appeals, including one to keep its setback from New York State 114, also known as Hampton Road. Downes will also ask the zoning board if egress to the bathroom, which is through the convenience store, should be included in gross floor area calculations. If so, the market is just slightly larger than the 600 square feet the village code allows.

The village code also limits the height of a convenience store to a maximum of 20 feet, whereas Laspesa’s drawings show the building 25.5 feet in height.
“The problem with this is it makes the building look squat,” said Downes of the 20 foot height.

Once he receives Platt’s determinations, Downes said he will ask for permission to go to the village’s historic preservation and architectural review boards before he comes back to the planning board.

Board member Greg Ferraris noted the gas station use is permitted and pre-existing, and under the new code is allowed to have accessory uses for a repair shop and convenience store.

“Basically we put that in with parameters that ensured this was the only place that could happen,” said Ferraris.

“It’s interesting from a planning perspective because I think it would relieve some of the attention downtown because there would be less people trying to get into the 7-Eleven parking lot,” said board member Neil Slevin.

“This is an essential service building,” added board member Larry Perrine. “There are only two gas stations in the village and both are in appropriate places, exiting the village without too much of an impact on residential neighborhoods.”

Consolidating Retail: Proposal to Modify Former Headley Studio

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The new owner of 40 Madison Street, next to the former United Methodist Church in Sag Harbor, hopes to consolidate two existing retail spaces at the site into one and expand into the building’s current second floor, reducing the number of apartments on the parcel from two to one, according to plans filed with the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board last month.

According to the plans, presented at a village planning board meeting on Tuesday, November 23 by property owner Natasha Esch’s attorney Miles Anderson, Esch hopes to take two existing retail spaces and a one-bedroom first floor apartment to create one 1,990 square-foot shop. In addition to marrying the two first floor stores, the plan also calls for the creation of a mezzanine for the retail space carved out of the second floor of the building.

A second-story apartment, currently boasting two-bedrooms, would be reduced to a 497-square-foot efficiency apartment in the plans, drafted by architect Mark Sosa of Arcologica.

Last Tuesday, Anderson presented the board with a breakdown of parking calculations, which shows under the proposed expansion, the property would actually require one less parking space than it already has.

At an October planning board work session, when the project was first presented, the planning board asked for an interpretation of the village code from building inspector Tim Platt, to determine whether or not an existing attached deck could be included in calculating the existing square footage of the building.

Anderson said as of the November planning board meeting, he has yet to receive an answer from Platt.

The question is critical, because as the plan stands, expansion of the building into that deck area may not be considered an expansion of the building’s square footage, if, as in the past, the building inspector deems the deck space is equivalent to existing building space.

If Platt agrees with that interpretation, as the project would not increase floor area, does not require more parking, or an increase in sanitary flow, and is under 3,000 square feet, it would be exempt from site plan approval under the new village code.

The board agreed, pending Platt’s determination and a detailed landscaping plan, to approve the project exempt from review.

In other planning board news, this Monday, December 6 the board will host a work session to go over public comments it received last week regarding the expansion of the John Jermain Memorial Library on Main Street.

At a public hearing last week, a handful of residents supported the library’s plans to almost double the size of its current facility with a modern, glass and steel addition planned at the rear of their property.

Parking, namely the lack of on-site parking, was debated with one resident charging the village would be setting a precedent for future commercial development if it allows the library to use street parking in its calculations for how it will ensure there is enough parking in the area to accommodate the larger library.

Other residents argued, along with the library’s environmental consultant David Emilita, that there is more than enough parking in the area for the expanded library, including planning board member and former library board president Gregory Ferraris, who admitted he was once opposed to the concept but now sees it as an economic advantage for the village business district.

Monday’s work session will be held at 3 p.m.