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.”
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.