Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals"

New Building Pitched for Sag Harbor’s Bay Street

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bay street

The building housing Tutto il Giorno Italian restaurant will be razed and replaced with a larger one if a developer’s proposal is approved by Sag Harbor Village.

By Stephen J. Kotz 

If the owners of the lots housing the Tutto il Giorno Italian restaurant and the Urban Zen clothing store get their way, a major change will be coming to Bay Street in Sag Harbor in the form of a new 5,700-square-foot, two-story building that would evoke the memory of an inn that stood nearby a century or more ago.

Brian DeSesa, the attorney representing 6 Bay Street Partners, the property’s owners, appeared before the village Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday night to gauge members’ reaction to the project, for which a formal application has yet to be made.

Mr. DeSesa said the building would be cedar shingled, with a large wraparound porch, and resemble a hotel that once stood on or near the site of the restaurant and store. (In a photograph found in The Express archive, the building he referred to appears to be on the site of the Sag Harbor Pets building.)

According to a floor plan of the building, it will house a first-floor restaurant with tables seating 74 people, a bar with seats for 18 patrons, and an additional 24 seats outside.

It would also be much taller—at 32 feet—than the building occupying the space now. Mr. DeSesa said.

“I do anticipate resistance from the neighbors to the rear,” he said. “They have already told me they want a vacant lot there, but that’s not going to happen.”

Mr. DeSesa added that the project calls for the two lots at 4 and 6 Bay Street to be merged. The design would require only a single rear-yard variance because a portion of the building would sit as close as 5.8 feet from the property line, where a 15-foot setback is required. Otherwise, the new building will meet setbacks, he told the ZBA, unlike the current buildings.

Mr. DeSesa added that the building would be built back from the sidewalk, removing it from a flood zone that would have required it to be elevated an additional 9 feet. He said the owners recognized that a 41-foot-tall building would have been far less welcome than the 32-foot-tall structure proposed.

“Part of the impact is the mass of it,” said ZBA member Scott Baker. “In the rear, it’s not just the setback, it’s the mass.”

Other board members said they were not sure how to proceed. “I appreciate you coming to us first,” said board member Brendan Skislock. “But to me it’s a little early.”

Board Chairman Anton Hagen said he would like to know what the Planning Board thinks of the application, but he agreed with member Tim McGuire that the ZBA would welcome an application that reduced the degree of nonconformity of the property.

Mr. DeSesa told the board an application would be withdrawn for a variance to waive a requirement for seven additional parking spaces so Tutto il Giorno could add 21 seats.  He said the new plan would not require a parking variance.

The attorney said the project would be considered a Type I action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act because of the scale of the new construction. Type I action typically require an environmental impact statement unless an applicant is able to address a review board’s environmental concerns ahead of time.

Plans for a Jefferson Street House Draw Fire

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A funny thing happened to us on the way to the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, a Jefferson Street property owner and his architect told the Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday.

“The ARB was absolutely aghast and multiple members of the organization Save Sag Harbor basically reamed me out for proposing to have a house in the back of the property,” architect Anthony Vermandois told the ZBA of the plans of his client, Evan DiPaolo, to build a new house at 10 Jefferson Street.

The objections, he said, were primarily because the new plans called for breaking up a pattern in which most houses are close to the street. The ARB signaled in no unclear terms that they would not be willing to approve it in that location, he said.

“I tried to explain to the ARB that to put the house in the front would require multiple area variances,” Mr. Vermandois said. “We are in a situation where to get this house through the ARB we need to put it in the front.”

“The irony of that is that it doesn’t conform to the zoning code,” he added.

Mr. Vermandois said he had originally proposed an approximately 4,700-square-foot house for the rear portion of the irregularly shaped 0.7-acre lot. But faced with the ARB’s criticism he and Mr. DiPaolo returned to the drawing board and began working on a plan for a slightly smaller house that would be placed closer to the street, but require front and sideyard setback variances as well as a variance from the pyramid law, which regulates a building’s height in relation to its distance from the property line.

“If it was me, I’d build it in the back,” said ZBA member Brendan Skislocki. “I’m trying to figure out how a nice road into the back, how that really destroys the integrity of the streetscape.”

The attorney Dennis Downes, who usually represents applicants in their dealings before the board, this time appeared in opposition, as a neighboring property owner, threatening to sue if the house were approved in its proposed location.

“The ARB has no authority, no authority, to send someone to the ZBA for variances,” Mr. Downes said. “Send this case back to the ARB and tell them to grant whatever permits are required.”

Mr. Downes said he objected to the plans for a number of reasons, saying that most houses along Jefferson Street have 25-to-30 feet of frontage on the street. The DiPaolo house would “cause an undesirable change in the neighborhood,” he said, in part because it would loom over other smaller houses on the street.

Plus, he said, the house would look down over the backyard of his own house on Main Street.  “I don’t want nine windows looking down at me,” he said.

Mr. Downes also questioned Mr. Vermandois’s assertion that the house would be about 4,400 square feet, saying his own calculations led him to believe it would be closer to 5,700 square feet.  “It’s a monstrous house if you put it on that part of the property; it’s not monstrous if you put in in back,” he said.

Mr.  Downes said that a neighbor, Robert Weinstein, had encouraged members of Save Sag Harbor to oppose Mr. DiPaolo’s plans, a charge Mr. Weinstein rejected.

“I did not get a group of Save Sag Harbor Friends to speak about this,” he said. “It was a spontaneous meeting where many members of the community opposed putting a house in the back of the property.”

“All of us have to think about what has been here before historically and what is coming after us,” he added.

Mr. Downes suggested that Mr. DiPaolo could have the kitchen removed from the current house on the property, a ranch that had been constructed by the Santacroce family, and convert that to an accessory structure, thus answering the ARB’s concerns about disrupting the streetscape. Board member Tim McGuire suggested that the idea be pursued as one possible solution and said he was particularly concerned by the extent of the pyramid law variance being requested.

“If the applicant could make this house more conforming, would you be opposed,” board member Scott Baker asked Mr. Downes. “I’m opposed to a two-story house in that location,” he replied.

“Getting on the same page with the ARB is really important,” noted board chairman Anton Hagen, who suggested a joint work session with that board.

“Our job is to grant the least number of variances,” said Mr. Baker.

“Why is this before us? asked Mr. Skisloski, referring to the ARB. “Did they suggest or did they deny?”

“They obviously gave them such a hard time the applicant felt he was going to be denied,” replied the board’s attorney, Denise Schoen.

The board tabled the matter pending a discussion with the ARB and revised plans reducing the need for variances.

Sag Harbor ZBA Work Session on Harbor Heights Project Rescheduled for January 16

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A Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) work session, originally scheduled for Friday, January 10 at 2 p.m. has been rescheduled for Thursday, January 16 at 2 p.m.

The work session will specifically cover the variance application of John Leonard, who is asking the ZBA for three variances to redevelop the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 in Sag Harbor.

The application has been before the village boards for three years and has been met with substantial opposition, including from hundreds of residents who have filed letters of protest with the ZBA and the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board during the course of the review.

The Sag Harbor ZBA must determine whether or not it will grant Leonard’s variances by its Tuesday, January 21 meeting, which will begin with a work session at 6 p.m.

Egan Variance, Expansions at Provisions Approved by Sag Harbor ZBA

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By Kathryn G. Menu

A variance request by William Egan to allow him to construct new front steps at an existing Garden Street residence seven feet from the property line where 35 feet is normally required was formally approved by the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting Tuesday night.

The request is part of a larger project planned for the Garden Street property that involves a four-bedroom expansion which will require Egan to raise the grade on his property to comply with Suffolk County Health Department standards for an above ground septic system. It’s a contentious point for neighbors who fear the increased grading will exacerbate flooding in an area already afflicted by cumbersome drainage.

Last month, the ZBA voted in a straw poll to grant the variance in a 3-2 vote, with chairman Anton Hagen and board member Timothy McGuire voting against the measure. The vote held true on Tuesday night, supported by board members Michael Bromberg, Benedetta Duebel and Brendan Skislock.

Since last month’s ZBA meeting, neighbors have approached both the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees and the Harbor Committee asking for help in not only countering the large development project in their neighborhood, but also drainage and flooding concerns in an neighborhood filled historic homes and year round residents.

In other news, the board also approved Sag Harbor Naturally, Inc., the company that owns Provisions Natural Foods Market and Organic Café on Main Street, Sag Harbor, for relief from the special exception requirements for a grocery store. Specifically, owners sought to waive site plan showing compliance with parking in the code and the creation of a market and municipal impact study, as well as the need to address affordable housing, so it can fully expand into the former Style Bar Day Spa site on Bay Street. Without this variance, the company would have had to wall off approximately 200 square feet of space within the Bay Street location in order to avoid triggering 2009 requirements laid out in the zoning code aimed at protecting the diversity of retail spaces in downtown Sag Harbor.

Lastly, the ZBA approved a variance to allow Lysander Sag Harbor Residence, L.P., on Amity Street, the right to construct a residence that would have a side yard setback of 22.9 feet where 23.97 feet is required, to allow for a 29.5 foot front yard setback where 35 feet are required and allow the new residence to protrude into the sky plane 453.75 cubic feet.

The next meeting of the Sag Harbor ZBA will be held on May 21, starting at 6 p.m. with a work session.

 

 

 

 

“Legs” Suit Refiled Against Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals; Charges Chairwoman Bias

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In an amended petition against the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), Janet Lehr and Ruth Vered have charged that an April 2012 decision by the ZBA to not grant them relief to keep Larry Rivers’ sculpture “Legs” erected next to their Madison Street home should be vacated by a court. They say the reason is because the board’s chairwoman, Gayle Pickering, had a conflict of interest in deciding the case.

On Monday, October 1, the Village of Sag Harbor was furnished with an amended version of an article 78 originally filed in June by the women, who own and manage Vered Modern and Contemporary Art in East Hampton, by their Sag Harbor attorney, Stephen A. Grossman.

In April, the ZBA denied the couple’s application to legalize the 16-foot sculpture, erected in a planter next to their home just one-foot away from the property line.

According to Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt, the “Legs” are viewed as a “structure” under the village code. There is no provision exempting art from village law and as a structure Lehr and Vered needed four variances, including one that would allow an accessory structure one foot from the property line where 35 feet is required.

In their decision the ZBA noted that allowing a structure a foot from the property line was not a precedent they wished to set and that neighbors “vehemently” opposed the application.

The decision also states the location of the structure in the historic district is “contrary to the goals of the village to preserve and protect historic character” and that Lehr and Vered have other alternatives in how they display the sculpture.

According to a copy of the amended petition, among other reasons, the suit charges that Pickering failed to disclose that she had a conflict of interest in the case, namely that she had allegedly — several years prior to being the chairwoman of the ZBA — applied to have her artwork shown at the Vered Gallery and was rejected.

Pickering is an architect and artist with her own company, Pickering Architects.

“The fact that the Chair was responsible for the conduct of these hearings and led discussions and deliberations by the board with respect to this application and a previous related application in 2010 and cast a positive vote for the board’s decision herein, the entire proceeding was tainted and the decision should be thrown out,” states the suit.

On Tuesday, Pickering flatly denied even the appearance of a conflict of interest, stating the only time she has even shown her work since many years ago at the Pamela Topping Gallery in East Hampton — with a piece bought by fellow Sag Harbor resident Bea Alda — was this past summer at the Art by Architects exhibit at the Southampton Historical Society.

“That was the first show I have done,” said Pickering, calling the allegations “patently untrue.”

“I am flattered they would even think I would want to be shown in Vered’s gallery, but no, it is not true,” she said.

The suit also alleges the board did not make a “reasonable” determination taking into account the full record of the case, which included scores of artists begging the board to exempt the work as a piece of art rather than a structure — a request denied by the board which said it did not have the power to legislate what art is defined as.

In the meantime, the “Legs” sculpture will remain at Lehr and Vered’s home — the former Bethel Baptist Church at the corner of Henry and Madison streets — while the case is battled out in the New York Supreme Court.

Rivers “Legs” Will Remain in Sag Harbor as Court Case Continues

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By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Gavin Menu

You might call it a stay of artistic execution.

This week, Sag Harbor village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said the Village of Sag Harbor would not cite Janet Lehr and Ruth Vered for keeping the Larry Rivers’ “Legs,” planted in a thin strip of property next to their Madison Street home until a court decides the sculpture’s fate.

In June, Lehr and Vered filed an article 78 lawsuit against the Village of Sag Harbor’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) contesting that board’s April decision to not grant Lehr and Vered variances, relief needed to legalize the 16-foot sculpture, which was erected next to their home in 2008.

It was in 2008 that village officials ruled Lehr and Vered needed a building permit to display “Legs” alongside their home, the former Bethel Baptist Church on Madison Street in the historic district of Sag Harbor. For almost two years the “Legs” went unnoticed. Then a member of the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board (ARB) pursued the matter after Vered applied to that board for a certificate of occupancy to repaint the historic residence.

According to Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt, the “Legs” are viewed as a “structure” under the village code. There is no provision exempting art from village law and as a structure Lehr and Vered needed four variances, including one that would allow an accessory structure one foot from the property line where 35 feet is required.

The ZBA refused to entertain any arguments that the “Legs” should be exempt from the code as it is art, noting it did not believe art should be legislated. Their decision also noted allowing a structure a foot from the property line was not a precedent they wished to set and that neighbors “vehemently” opposed the application.

The decision also states the location of the proposed structure in the historic district is “contrary to the goals of the village to preserve and protect historic character” and that Lehr and Vered have other alternatives in how they display the sculpture.

The board did agree to allow Lehr and Vered to keep the “Legs” through the summer, until September 15. However, it stipulated Lehr and Vered must remove nighttime lighting as it was one of the issues neighbors have with the sculpture.

In June, Lehr and Vered sued the ZBA, calling their decision unreasonable and one made without taking into account the full record amassed during a two-year battle in front of the village boards.

Because the case is ongoing, said Thiele in an interview this week, the village will not pursue requiring Lehr and Vered meet that September 15 deadline to remove the “Legs.” However, Thiele said the women, who own and manage Vered Modern and Contemporary Art, have ceased lighting the sculpture.

“I think where we are is that they will be allowed to remain, pending the outcome of the litigation,” said Thiele noting the practice is fairly common.

Thiele said currently the Village of Sag Harbor is working on a legal brief for the court and hoped between now and the end of the year a judge in the New York Supreme Court will have ruled on the case.

Thiele added that in an article 78 lawsuit, the court only considers whether or not there was a rational basis for a determination by examining the court record.

If either side is unhappy with the court’s decision, said Thiele, they will have the opportunity to appeal that decision in the appellate court system.”

Real Estate Value Not a Valid Argument for a Variance, Says Sag Zoning Board

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Ann Hotung’s desire to sell her historic Suffolk Street residence was not good enough cause for the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals to grant her an application for a variance to allow a swimming pool on her lot.

Hotung, who owns 9 Suffolk Street, came to the board hoping to gain a variance that would allow her to build a swimming pool within 10-feet of the side lot line where 15-feet is required.

According to David Meeves, representing Hotung at the hearing, she needs the variance in order to gain approval from the Suffolk County Health Department for a new septic system planned in concert with the swimming pool.

Meeves said the pool was necessary to sell the residence, which while once valued at $3 million has been reduced to just under $2 million and has been listed with local realtors with nary a single offer on the property.

Immediately, zoning board members appeared skeptical.

“I don’t like the argument,” said board member Anton Hagen. “It is hellacious as far as I am concerned.”

Hagen suggested the property owner look at reducing the price of the house if in fact a sale is so necessary.

“You are asking us to approve a variance so you can maximize the price of the house,” he said.

Board chairwoman Gayle Pickering added she was concerned about the impact on the neighbors if they allowed the pool to be built.

“Pools generate noise,” she said.

Board member Michael Bromberg also took issue with the application.

“The hardship you are presenting is a house in Sag Harbor isn’t marketable unless it has either a swimming pool or if you can sell the variance for a swimming pool when you sell the house,” he said. “I don’t think that is the kind of hardship we are here to deal with.”

Neighbor Duncan Haile came out strongly against the application, noting ongoing issues he has had with Hotung and the fact the pool would be literally 15-feet from his kitchen window. The application was voted down unanimously.

In other ZBA news, Brad Penuel and Andressa Costa were granted a variance for their 51 Harrison Street home in order to add a 358-square-foot expansion. T & K Redwood Associates were also given a variance to construct a new residence at their 64 Redwood Road home. Both applications will formally receive their determinations at next month’s December 20 meeting of the Sag Harbor ZBA.


Dispute Over Roadway Tops Agenda

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After close to an hour of discussion on three different variances for the construction of a summer home for Matthew and Sarah Hastings on Notre Dame Road, the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals tabled the application after learning a dispute over a sliver of adjacent property was ongoing with the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees. The outcome could affect the Hastings case with the zoning board.

For several months, the Hastings’ attorney Tim McCully has argued to the village board that the Hastings’ always believed the sliver was their property’s driveway because the previous owner had used it as such when it was sold to the family last year. More importantly, McCully believes the road was never intended to be part of Notre Dame Road, as it is less than half the size of surrounding roads and is not named in the original sale.

Mayor Brian Gilbride has responded that the village attorney is looking into the matter, and that he does believe it may be village-owned property. Trustee Tiffany Scarlato also noted, during a December board meeting that if it is village property it should be left public under the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), which demands the village protect and encourage access to the waterfront.

In front of the zoning board of appeals, the Hastings were seeking the demolition of their existing home and construction of a 2500 square-foot home, which would be roughly 1000 square feet larger than the current residence. The Hastings are asking the zoning board if their new home can be 23-feet to their rear lot line, when the village code demands 35-feet, a variance to construct the house 15.5-feet to the rear lot line when the code asks for 30-feet and for a new wastewater system 24-feet from a wetland boundary when the zoning code asks for 100-feet.

Susanna Herman of En Consultants has argued the existing sanitary system is sitting in groundwater, and its replacement will be a benefit to the environment. She also said the neighborhood boasts similarly sized homes and that a mold problem in the current residence concerns the Hastings as they have four young children.

Board members initially expressed concern for the size of the new house on the parcel, including chairman Gayle Pickering.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think it is too big for the property.”

But the board stopped short of rendering a determination after learning of the Hastings dispute from McCully, who said he believes the developer specifically excluded the property from sale to the village, according to a 1932 survey. He has also received a quick claim deed from Stahl’s grandchildren and is awaiting a title,” he said.

McCully added that in the meantime a bulldozer has cleared the parcel despite the ongoing debate.

Herman said if they did retain ownership, it could enable them to shift their project around and reduce the need for relief from the zoning board, as it would give them an additional 23-feet of width to the property.

The board agreed that the application should be tabled until next month and asked McCully for an update then.

In other zoning board news, Ira and Perri Gurfein’s request for a re-hearing with the zoning board of appeals was denied, with Michael Bromberg voting against the measure.

The Gurfein’s sued the village in March of 2009 after the zoning board of appeals failed to approve a parking variance they needed after adding a second story commercial space to their Bay Street business, The Style Bar, without a building permit in 2000. The case is pending.

According to village attorney Anthony Tohill, village code would require present members of the board to be unanimous in their decision on whether to re-hear the case or not.

“I have no particular wish to re-open it,” said Anton Hagen.

Michael Bromberg said while he would not necessarily grant their application, he would consider hearing new information in the case.

“I would be inclined to wait for the Supreme Court to make their decision,” said Hagen.

Hagen, Pickering and Benedetta Duebel voted against re-hearing the application, with Bromberg voting against the action.