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Village Urged To Renew Yacht Yard Lease

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Lou Grignon at the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard.

 

By Stephen J. Kotz

In an 11th hour attempt to negotiate a new lease from the village for a quarter-acre lot he uses to store boats, Lou Grignon, the owner of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, appeared before the Sag Harbor Village Board on Tuesday.

As he was at an earlier appearance before the Harbor Committee on Monday, Mr. Grignon was accompanied by clients who he has notified in recent weeks that he will no longer be able to store their boats over the winter months.

They, in turn, told the board that besides inconveniencing them, the village was shooting itself in the foot economically by turning its back on an important waterfront business that both contributes to the ambiance of the village and brings in plenty of cash to village restaurants and stores.

Despite their pleas, the board took no action, with Mayor Brian Gilbride pointing out that Mr. Grignon had turned down the village’s latest offer to extend his lease for another year.

Mr. Grignon, reading from a prepared statement, told the board he was not there “to discuss negotiations or numbers.”

Mr. Grignon said he did not consider it his responsibility to provide storage for every boat owner who came to him, but stressed that he had gone out of way to serve his customers.

However, the village, he said, does have the responsibility “to consider the well being of the boaters in the community.”

“The village makes a handsome profit from their slips and moorings with minimal costs. Have you considered the economic impact to the village of losing 50 to 60 boats that I store to other harbors?,” he added.

One of those clients, Sean Leary, told the board that he kept his boat at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and relied on Mr. Grignon to store his boat. He said he could not keep it at Ship Ashore marina because he cannot pass under the bridge.

“It’s a blessing to have Lou there to haul my boat out” during storms, he said. “What use do you have in mind that would be better for this community than a boat yard facility in the Village of Sag Harbor?” he asked.

George Martin said he first came to Sag Harbor in the 1970s before retiring here. In the decades since, he said, the village had developed into a premier sailing port with popular Wednesday night races. “Look around the harbor. There must be 40 boats,” he said. “When I first came here there were maybe five.”

“We’re all here basically because of Lou’s yard,” he added. “If we don’t have Lou’s yard, we have to leave.”

“It seems Sag Harbor is turning more into a club than a village,” added Trevor Barry. “The more we lose our amenities like the dry cleaners, the more we are killing the village.”

North Haven resident Ann Sutphen said she too had a received letter informing here there would no longer be space in the yard to store her boat. She said she was considering moving her boat to Shelter Island and added that she and her husband go out to eat and shop in stores when working on their boat. “All of that is going to go somewhere else,” she said.

After listening to Mr. Grignon on Monday, the Harbor Committee said it would send a memo to the village board, urging it to renew the lease and reminding it that the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan requires the village to support water-dependent businesses.

Dr. Tom Halton, a member of the Harbor Committee who said he was offering his personal views, told the village board the boat yard was “in concert” with the LWRP and he urged the board to not turn the property over to a “non-maritime use.”

Mr. Grignon said he was paying about $16,000 a year when his 15-year lease expired May 31. At that time, he said the village told him the property had been appraised at $20,000, so he asked for a 10-year deal with a 10-year option to renew, starting at that amount and increasing by 2.3 percent a year.

The village countered with a five-year offer, starting at $22,500 and increasing by 5 percent a year.

The village’s most recent offer was a one-year deal at $24,000, which Mr. Grignon said he rejected because it would have been retroactive to May 31 and would have essentially left him in the same position next spring.

Former Mayor Pierce Hance, who negotiated the first lease with Mr. Grignon, also urged the board to settle the deal.

“I have no grief for Lou, but I have grief for the people who are being inconvenienced,” said Mr. Hance, who urged the board to take personalities out of the dispute and sign a contract that would provide much needed revenue to the village. “Guys, make it work because you are screwing a lot of people,” he said.

But when Mr. Hance asked the mayor what his plan was for the property, Mr. Gilbride declined to answer, simply responding, “your two minutes are up.”

Wetlands Moratorium

As expected, the village board adopted a six-month moratorium on wetlands permits on Tuesday while it asks assistant village attorney Denise Schoen, environmental consultant Richard Warren and the Harbor Committee to review the village’s existing wetlands law and offer suggestions for strengthening it.  The board adopted the moratorium after a brief public hearing at which nobody spoke for or against the proposal.

Buoyed by the Boat Business

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Whatever floats your boat: Lou Grignon is the proprietor of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard.

Whatever floats your boat: Lou Grignon is the proprietor of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard.



By Bryan Boyhan

In the 18 years Lou Grignon has owned the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard on Bay Street he’s seen the village emerge as a popular destination for yachts cruising the eastern seaboard. With its broad offering of cultural activities to its collection of restaurants, Sag Harbor has joined the ranks of Savannah, Block Island and Bar Harbor as popular ports of call for a leisure class that continues to fuel the economies of maritime communities.

Grignon’s yacht yard and its ship’s store have benefited from that growth, and he has seen his number of employees double in the nearly two decades he’s been in business here.

“We currently have about ten guys working in the yard, there’s Robert in the ship’s store, and another couple who work in the office,” said Grignon in an interview this week. “That’s about twice as many as I had when we started.”

The type of boat coming into the harbor has changed dramatically, said Grignon.

“The scale of the boat has come up quite a bit,” he said. “The first boat tenders we saw were all inflatables. Now we’re seeing yachts with 20- or 30 ft. center console tenders.”

Much of the business is in maintenance, service and storage, and indeed the property surrounding the building at the yard were packed with boats in the day or so leading up to the arrival of Tropical Storm Irene. This week, the yard is again wide open, as all but two boats were returned to the water in the week after the storm passed. This is an encouraging sign, and indicative of boaters’ changing habits.

“It used to be after Labor Day, and with kids going back to school, many people would start puling their boats for the season, and by the time Thanksgiving came around we were just about done,” said Grignon. “Now, we’re still pulling boats in the first and second week of December.”

“Those who have boats out here want to wait until the bitter end,” he said.

The rhythm of the business dictates a rush in the spring to get boats in the water, but after that the yard generally quiets down.

“Once the boats are in the water the yard’s pretty much done until something breaks,” said Grignon

But, he said, in recent years the have seen a growth in the maintenance sector.

“Someone will want another coat of varnish for their boat, or we’ll pull a boat for a power washing,” he said,

The demand for varnishing alone has caused Grignon to hire someone who specializes in it.

“I brought this guy up from Antigua” he said, “and all he does is varnish and paint. That’s a position I never had three years ago. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve given him his own helper.”

Grignon said he noticed an upswing in the arrival of larger boats — those 60-feet and bigger — about ten years ago. It’s a boon he said, not just for his business but for all the marinas in the village.

“You see all the yards inside are full, and Waterfront Marina and the Yacht Club are full,” he said, “you can see the number of mega yachts lined up.”

What’s driving all this interest?

“Sag Harbor’s a destination, boaters want to come here,” said Grignon, who noted Bay Street Theatre, the art galleries, and local restaurants just steps away from the waterfront as a big draw for cruising yachts. “There’s a real connection between the dock and the street. You don’t have that in Montauk or Southampton.”

He added that he has seen a growth not just in visiting yachts, but in the number of local boat owners as well.

“You’ve got all these local guys out there in their center consoles fishing out of Sag Harbor and the popularity of the Wednesday night sailing races has really grown,” said Grignon.

Grignon, who bought the business and its store from Jim Briggs in the early 1990s, and then the real estate from Pat Malloy about five years ago, has expanded the retail part of the business, growing their stock of general marine supplies and expanding their lines of supplies for Honda and John Deere engines. In particular, he said, they are dealers for Yanmar engines— which, he said, are in about 80 percent of all cruising sailboats — and carry a full line of Yanmar parts.

“The guys come in and get what they need,” said Grignon, “but that’s left women largely outside,”

So the ship’s store has also expanded its line of name brand weather gear, with such manufacturers and Henri Lloyd. In the coming year he said he will also invest in stock for UV protective clothing.

“A lot of people are asking for it,” he said. “We’re all getting older, and concerned about the sun.”

All in all, Grignon is optimistic about the growth of the maritime business here.

“The only thing that’s going to hinder Sag Harbor is that they’ve got to maintain the channels and the mooring grids,” he said. “Over the next five or ten years that could be a problem.”



Dock Yard Prepares for Irene

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“We’re clearing all our docks,” said Louis Grignon, manager of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard.

After tracking Hurricane Irene—which threatens to hit the East End sometime on Sunday—Grignon said he decided yesterday (Tuesday) to institute an official “hurricane haul.”  In addition to the fact that the eye of the storm looks set to cross right over Long Island (even touching Sag Harbor, according to Tuesday’s reports), Grignon further explained that because of the new moon the East End will be seeing “astronomically high tides” this weekend.

Grignon said the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard has the capacity to haul about 20 to 25 boats toshore per day, and it had brought in 14 boats by 1 p.m. Thursday.  “That’s in addition to roughly 30 boats that have already been grounded,” he added.  In all, “we’ll get a good two-thirds of our customers taken care of,” Grignon later estimated.

Most of Grignon’s customers have already signed storm-haul contracts, which give the Yacht Yard the right to bring all docked ships to shore.  Grignon’s team is also hauling some vessels in from beyond the breakwater, and securing those fastened to mornings inside the grid.

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Above: North Haven Village Trustee George Butts helps his son, George, pull his small speed boat to shore.

Grignon said his philosophy going into a weekend rife with hurricane threats is, “You do the best you can before hand to prepare—and you pick up the pieces afterward.”

He hopes to have all boats on shore by Saturday.