Tag Archive | "Save Sag Harbor"

Petition Calls on Sag Harbor Village to Stem the Tide of Development

Tags: , , , ,

A house on Howard Street, one of many currently under re-development in Sag Harbor. Stephen J. Kotz photo.

A house on Howard Street, one of many currently under re-development in Sag Harbor. Stephen J. Kotz photo.

By Stephen J. Kotz

A petition drive launched by the civic organization, Save Sag Harbor, which decries over-development in the village and demands local government take steps to control it and protect the village’s historic character, has already been signed by more than 750 people, according to organizers.

And they say they are heartened by the fact that approximately one-third of those signing on have taken the extra step to add their own comments to the petition, which appears on the group’s website, savesagharbor.com.

“It is going exceedingly well. We are amazed and encouraged by the outpouring,” said Jayne Young, a member of Save Sag Harbor’s board. “And the attention to this is not flagging at all. People are staying with it.”

The response, added Randy Croxton, another board member, indicates that the changes that have been occurring in the village, especially its historic district, have “really struck a nerve.”

The petition drive, which was launched in February, describes the village as at risk and cites “an unprecedented and damaging flood of development” that has resulted in the demolition of historic houses and the construction of oversized ones in their place.

It calls for village regulatory boards to take three steps to help stem the tide. The first is for the village Zoning Board of Appeals to stop granting variances “for houses which are excessively large and are incongruous in character to existing house in our historic neighborhoods.”

The petition also calls for the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review to stop approving “over-sized construction and additions that are out of context in scale and placement with the neighboring environment.”

Finally, it urges the ZBA to consult with the ARB before ruling on applications to ensure that they are appropriate for the historic district.

Although the petition drive clearly seeks changes to the way business is conducted in the village, Ms. Young said she was not prepared to talk about additional steps the organization believes will need to be taken to protect the village.

Mr. Croxton said the Save Sag Harbor board would meet regularly in the coming months to work on more formal recommendations to the village, which would likely begin with asking it to hire a historic preservation consultant, as once was the case, to help the boards navigate the process.

He said the effort was not meant as an attack on the volunteer members who now serve on the village’s various review boards, who, he said are doing the best they can. But he added the changes occurring across the village are “showing where there are weaknesses in the interpretation of the code.”

He added that he hoped people who have signed the petition would take a leadership role in helping the village come up with solutions. “What we are assuming and hoping for going forward is a kind of passionate outpouring from the people who really have an interest,” he said.

Anton Hagen, the chairman of the village Zoning Board of Appeals, agreed with at least one aspect of the petition. “It really is incumbent upon us to have better communication,” he said of the ZBA and the ARB.

But he added that it is difficult for the ZBA to turn down applications for bigger houses, especially after it has previously issued variances for similar sized houses and noted that real estate investors have learned how to effectively game the system by seeking approval for the largest possible house. “You can say it kind of snuck up on Sag Harbor, this maxing out of lots,” he said. “We have to get ahead of the curve.”

He added he would like to see the village changing its code to adopt a maximum gross floor area ratio provision, as other neighboring communities, including North Haven, have already done. Such a code would limit the size of a house to the size of the given lot, as opposed to allowing a set size.

Mayor Brian Gilbride said village officials have begun looking into the possibility of adopting a floor area ratio amendment to the code, but said it was part of an ongoing process on the part of the village to correct problems in its code.

“Tonight we’ll extend the wetlands permit moratorium” he said on Tuesday, referring to that evening’s village board meeting. “Hopefully we’ll get that revised law done and we can move on. These are not quick fixes.”

The mayor suggested that Save Sag Harbor members may want to take a more active role, by appearing before the ZBA, ARB or planning board to voice their concerns.

Sag Harbor, he said, is facing the same kinds of pressures other East End communities have experienced. “It’s not a factory town anymore, it’s not a blue collar town anymore,” he said. “People are buying houses for a million dollars, knocking them down and building bigger houses.”

Mr. Croxton said there were still “a lot of people who have held on in a multi-generational way, who insist on passing down the houses they have and the community that they have.”

And Ms. Young said the village still had a vibrant future in front of it. “More people are raising their families here, more people are coming out for longer weekends, and there is a corps of people from the surrounding area who rely on it.”

New Name, Same Organization

Tags: , , ,


Admit it, just like us, you couldn’t tell Serve Sag Harbor apart from Save Sag Harbor. Well, the group, which has become a fundraising vehicle for the kinds of civic projects Save Sag Harbor has typically encouraged, announced this week that it was changing its name to the more user friendly Sag Harbor Partnership.

The organization is registered as a 501(c)3, not-for-profit with the Internal Revenue Service and dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the quality of life in Sag Harbor, according to its website.

Among the group’s initiatives has been fundraising to install a series of traffic calming measures on village streets. Just last week, it was cited as being a possible source of funding for an effort to develop Sag Harbor Cove Park on the southwest side of the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

“The activities and programs of our organization include education, historic preservation of the built environment, preservation of the natural environment, and related social and economic concerns, such as affordable housing and support for locally-owned small businesses,” the group says on its website. “With monies raised through our fundraising activities, we will offer grants to support projects and other organizations engaged in work that furthers our stated purposes, including professional assistance.”

Contributions can be mailed to Sag Harbor Partnership, P.O. Box 182, Sag Harbor NY 11963. More information can be found at www.sagharborpartnership.org or by sending an email to info@sagharborpartnership.org.

Planning Board Begins Review of New Harbor Heights Plan

Tags: , ,


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.

Turnout for Traffic Calming and Dog Park

Tags: , , , , , ,


An overflow crowd filled the Sag Harbor Village Board’s meeting room Tuesday night to support traffic calming and a dog  park. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz

By Stephen J. Kotz

An army of residents of Sag Harbor and the surrounding area crammed into the Sag Harbor Village Board’s meeting room Tuesday night, spilling out into the hallway and sitting on the floor.

They were there to lobby the board to approve a traffic calming pilot project promoted by the organizations Save Sag Harbor and Serve Sag Harbor and to show support for a Bay Point woman’s request for the village to set aside a portion of Havens Beach as a dog park.

Traffic calming proponents, who were hopeful that they would finally be given the green light to launch their pilot program, left deflated, as the board tabled the matter yet again. While dog park supporters were buoyed by the board’s agreement to form a committee to further study the request.

“Can I at least tell the people who have donated their time that we’ll be on the agenda next month?” asked Susan Mead of Serve Sag Harbor, who has spearheaded efforts to fund the traffic-calming project.

Board members promised that they would pick up the discussion either at their July meeting or at a work session later this month.

“I support the concept, but I have a lot of issues,” said Trustee Ed Deyermond. “I’m not prepared to vote on this.”

Trustee Ken O’Donnell said he also wanted to move forward, as soon as possible. “Let’s pick an intersection and get it right,” he said.

He also complained that he had not been given adequate time before Tuesday’s meeting to review the proposed sites and lashed out at Mayor Brian Gilbride over the lack of communication.

“I gotta look at Facebook. It’s the only way the board finds out about traffic calming tonight is to look on Facebook,” he said.

Trustee Robby Stein also pledged support for the pilot program. “We’re in agreement that something has to be done,” he said, adding that he wanted to make sure that concerns of emergency services representatives were also met.

Mayor Gilbride, who has in the past encouraged the traffic calming supporters, waffled a bit on Tuesday. “Being born and raised here, I’m not seeing the need for it, he said, adding, nonetheless, that Save Sag Harbor and Serve Sag Harbor had done a good job and he would support a pilot program.

“Traffic calming happens in Sag Harbor every summer,” the mayor later quipped, “because you can’t go that fast.”

Earlier in the meeting, a steady stream of visitors stepped up to the podium, most of whom were strongly in favor of the traffic calming measures.

Among the supporters were Neil Slevin, the planning board chairman, and Anton Hagen, the chairman of the zoning board.

“I’ve lived on Main Street for 34 years. Traffic and speed have always been an issue,” Mr. Hagen said.

“Main Street has gotten so much busier than when I moved in 28 years,” said Mr. Slevin. “I’m asking you as a neighbor and as a leader of this community. I’m asking you to give it a chance.”

Bob Plum, another Main Street resident, also called for the board to support traffic calming. “I think in the big picture this is a great opportunity to establish a precedent,” he said. “Robert Moses can roll over in his grave.”

Drivers speed down Main Street “as they try to catch the light” at the intersection with Jermain Avenue and Brick Kiln Road, said Mary Anne Miller. “No one ever abides by the speed limit. I believe it will do a great amount of good for the village.”

April Gornick of North Haven was one of several people from outside the village who supported the traffic calming effort. “We’re trying to make this as flexible as possible,” she said. “I think the benefit would be enormous.” She added she hoped that Jermain Avenue and Madison Street could be targeted because the intersection is so close to the school.

“Change has come. Whether we like it or not, we’re all under siege by cars,” said Eric Cohen of Collingswood Drive, just south of the village.

“Until we try something we don’t know if it will work,” he added. “Try this. If it doesn’t work, try something else.”

Jane Young, a resident of Northside Drive in Noyac, said, “I think traffic is getting crazier and crazier out here by the year I hope you will give the pilot program a chance.”

But not everyone was in favor of the program. Rue Matthiessen, a Main Street resident, said while supported “efforts to control traffic,” she opposed the changes proposed for Glover and Main streets that she said would reduce the width of the road. “There have been attempts to explain to us that putting obstructions in the road will not narrow the road, but we fail to see how this is possible,” she said.

Ann Marie Bloedorn, a Hampton Road resident, said putting planters in the road would make it too hard for fire trucks to maneuver.

Sag Harbor Fire Chief Jim Frazier agreed. “It was stated earlier that or trucks didn’t have difficulty negotiating some of those circles. That’s not the case,” he said.

And Ed Downes of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps said that when traffic lanes are narrowed to slow traffic, it also slows emergency responders. “It makes it more difficult for us to get to the ambulance or get to the person in trouble,” he said.

Dog Park

Tina Pignatelli of Bay Point, whose dog Huckleberry was struck and killed at Havens Beach a month ago, appeared with a phalanx of supporters to devote a portion of the field on the southeast side of Havens Beach as a dog park.

“I want to make this park safe for dogs, so what happened to Huck never happens again,” she said.

Ms. Pignatelli said she wanted the park to be a place for people and pets to enjoy and repeated her vow to find private funding to landscape an area for the project.

Ms. Pignatelli’s father, North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander also spoke. “The loss of Huck was devastating to her and our family,” he said.

A steady procession of speakers also supported the proposal, for which the landscape architect Jack deLashmet has agreed to provide plans.

“I support something like this being done down there,” said Mr. Deyermond looking over a rough sketch of the proposal. “I’m afraid that this takes up most of what’s there.” He asked if the plan could be scaled back.

Mr. Stein also said he would support the plan, but would like to make sure it is landscaped with plants that would prevent erosion and runoff into a dreen that drains into the harbor.

“I tell you, I never thought that was a spot for a dog park,” said Mayor Gilbride before addressing Mr. Sander. “You sure you don’t have an property over there, Jeff?”

Despite the joking tone, Mr. Gilbride promised to set up a committee to work with Ms. Pignatelli to come up with more formal plans.

Sag Harbor Likely to Move Forward with Traffic Calming This Spring

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

An aerial map of Sag Harbor Village highlights key intersections being explored for improvement under a traffic calming initiative spearheaded by Serve Sag Harbor.

An aerial map of Sag Harbor Village highlights key intersections being explored for improvement under a traffic calming initiative spearheaded by Serve Sag Harbor.

By Kathryn G. Menu; images courtesy of Serve Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor officials appear ready to move forward with a pilot program to calm traffic at key intersections throughout the village.

The pilot program could be launched as soon as June of this year, said Mayor Brian Gilbride, following a presentation Tuesday night by the non-profit Serve Sag Harbor. The group wants to focus on passive ways the village can reduce the speed of vehicles and make its streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Serve Sag Harbor, and its sister non-profit Save Sag Harbor, have been working with Michael King of Nelson/Nygaard and Jonas Hagen, a Sag Harbor resident in the doctoral program in urban planning at Columbia University, on traffic calming solutions for the village since last October. With the village board’s approval, the organizations created an ad-hoc committee including Trustee Robby Stein to discuss the issue, with Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano and Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley tapped by the group for their input.

“This really all comes out of the idea of safety,” said John Shaka of Save Sag Harbor at Tuesday’s village board meeting. Mr. Shaka went on to describe several traffic related fatalities and a handful of non-fatal accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists in East Hampton and Southampton towns since 2012.

“I am here to tell you, I was shaken up by this—we were shaken up by this,” said Mr. Shaka.


Mr. King noted vehicle speed literally is the difference between the severity of a traffic accident involving pedestrians or cyclists.

“If I get hit by someone driving 20 mph, the chances of me surviving is really, really good,” he said. “If I get hit by a car going 40, my chances of dying are really, really good.”

The organizations have tasked Mr. King and Mr. Hagen with planning for traffic calming solutions at a total of 19 intersections throughout the village. The pilot phase would involve the repainting of roadways, extending sidewalks, and strategically placing planters and garden beds. On Tuesday, Mr. King showed the board a handful of examples.


The village board looked at options at Main and Union streets in front of the John Jermain Memorial Library and the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, as well as improvements at the intersections of Main and Glover streets, Main and John streets, Jermain Avenue and Madison Street, Jermain Avenue and Suffolk Street and Jermain and Oakland avenues.

Some intersections, noted Mr. King, involve large scale plans, while others are more simple. He suggested the trustees consider tackling two small intersections, and two complex intersections, in the first phase of the program in order to track the effectiveness of the traffic-calming solutions.

At Main and Union streets in front of the library, Mr. King has proposed the village bump out the sidewalk on all four sides of the intersection to increase public space, which could be lined with planters. Mr. King’s proposal also calls for four crosswalks to be painted—two on Main Street, one on Garden Street and one on Union Street—as a part of the plan and that Main Street be painted a different color at this intersection to create a plaza-like feel that will slow vehicles down.

Proposed traffic calming improvements at the intersection of Suffolk Street and Jermain Avenue.

Proposed traffic calming improvements at the intersection of Suffolk Street and Jermain Avenue.

At most of the remaining intersections, repainted crosswalks, small sidewalk bump-outs lined with planters, and small plazas in the middle of roads just before intersections entail most of the traffic calming improvements. The intersection of Jermain Avenue and Suffolk Street represents a more complex proposal, including a large interior plaza breaking up the roadway, and four crosswalks to ease pedestrian travel. In front of Pierson Middle-High School sidewalk extensions are also proposed as is the creation of a plaza-like road on Jermain Avenue to slow traffic.

“What I recommend always is pilot programs,” said Mr. King. “If you like it, you can get some more money and make it better. If you don’t like it, you can take it out.”

Serve Sag Harbor board member Susan Mead said the organization would like to work hand-in-hand with the village to select four intersections to focus on as a part of the pilot program.

“Let’s pick two or four intersections, get some costs and then let the public see how they work,” said Mayor Gilbride.

“I think we will all work together to at least get some pilot projects started,” he added, saying that to measure the success of the improvements they should be completed prior to the busy summer season.

“The chief and Dee [Yardley] have to be involved in this 100 percent,” said Mayor Gilbride. “We have a couple months.”

Sag Harbor Fire Department First Assistant Chief James Frazier said it appears some of the intersection improvements block access to fire hydrants. Mayor Gilbride suggested the department attend the next traffic calming meeting to discuss that that issue.

In other village news, the board held a public hearing and adopted a new law establishing a board of ethics to implement the code of ethics written into the village code in 2009. According to village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr., while the village complied with state law by writing the code of ethics, it never established the ethics board, which will consist of three members to be appointed by the village board of trustees.

Trustee Robby Stein suggested the board look into installing attendant parking at the former National Grid gas ball site, located on Bridge Street and Long Island Avenue. The village current leases that property from the utility and uses it for parking. Mr. Stein said with attendant parking, the village could potentially see an additional 60 parking spaces in that lot.

“Where I am is there are companies that do this professionally and we know we have a parking problem in the village,” he said, suggesting the board invite some private firms to present the board with options.


Egan Variance, Expansions at Provisions Approved by Sag Harbor ZBA

Tags: , , , ,

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.





Special ZBA Harbor Heights Work Session Slated for Thursday, February 28 at 2 p.m.

Tags: , , , ,


Today, Thursday, February 28 at 2 p.m. the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will meet for a special work session to discuss the proposed expansion of the Harbor Heights Service Station on Hampton Road in Sag Harbor.

While the meeting is open to the public, only members of the ZBA will be permitted to speak. A public hearing on the Harbor Heights application will continue at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on March 19.

Harbor Heights Service Station owner John Leonard is proposing a 1,842 square-foot building, with a 972 square-foot convenience store within it. Several areas, where goods are not visible, including the bathroom, have not been counted towards the square-footage of the store.

The service station building will also be expanded slightly. Four pump islands with eight fueling positions are proposed under a canopy, as are two new curb cuts into the property, 32 parking spaces and new landscaping.

Leonard needs eight variances from the ZBA, including for the height of the canopy, for setbacks for the building as well as the fuel pumps, for landscape buffers and for the size of the convenience store.

The not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor, along with a number of neighbors and residents, are opposing the plan, primarily citing the size of the expansion.

Sag Harbor Traffic & Transportation Forum Slated for Saturday

Tags: , , , , ,

By Kathryn G. Menu

As a child living in a house on Main Street, Jonas Hagen remembers practically growing up on the streets of Sag Harbor with his friends.

“We would literally just walk around all day,” said Hagen, an urban planner living in Manhattan who still visits his family in Sag Harbor on a regular basis.

Now, says Hagen, the idea of his sister’s children – who live in the village — making their way from Main Street or the local schools to Mashashimuet Park by themselves does raise red flags.

“Sag Harbor grew as a pedestrian village, so it is inherently pretty easy to get around, but I think in recent years with the increase in automobile traffic it has become more difficult to get around,” he said, “particularly for the more vulnerable populations – children and the elderly.”

It is for this very reason that Hagen has been tapped to lead a community workshop organized by the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor this Saturday. The Sag Harbor Active Transport Workshop will be held in the parish hall behind St. Andrew’s Catholic Church on Division Street from 1 to 4 p.m.

The workshop is open to the public and aimed at discussing both the problems, as well as creative solutions, to address traffic calming and transportation needs in the village. Topics will include traffic calming, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, Safe Routes to School programs, parking, public transportation, the use of public and green space and any other related issues residents want to discuss.

“The idea is to get people together and hear about the concerns they have about getting around our village,” said Hagen.

Elizabeth Mendelman, a member of the Springs School District Board of Education, will also speak at the meeting at 3 p.m. That district just secured over $580,000 in Safe Routes to School funding for sidewalks and other improvements.

Championing initiatives in Sag Harbor like Safe Routes to School and others that promote walking and biking, and help reduce the amount of traffic in village is hardly new.

In 2007 and 2008, parent Ken Dorph spearheaded a movement to persuade Sag Harbor Village, and later Southampton Town, to seek out Safe Routes to School funding. The program would have provided for improvements to make biking and walking to Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School easier — and safer — for students.

However, both initiatives failed to find funding support from local municipalities, which was required in order to apply for the grant.

Locally, in addition to the Springs School District, which was awarded funding through an application made by East Hampton Town in January, Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts have also been the recipients of Safe Routes to School funding.

Safe Routes to School is a national grant program launched in 2005 by Congress. In New York State, the Department of Transportation administers the program, which has provided over $1.15 billion in funding nationally.

Safe Routes to School, however, will not be the only topic on the agenda during Saturday’s brainstorming session. According to Save Sag Harbor board member Susan Mead — who worked with fellow board member John Shaka on organizing Saturday’s event — the organization views the meeting as the first part of a serious initiative to develop a comprehensive traffic calming and transportation plan for Sag Harbor.

“John and I both live on busy streets — Hampton and Main — and we noticed the increase in traffic this last summer,” said Mead. “We really want to focus on issue identification. Different streets have different issues, and of course the walk to school program is something we also have to take a look at because it is important we take an integrated approach to slowing down cars, while also aiding pedestrians and cyclists.”

Mead said for Save Sag Harbor, taking a serious look at traffic and transportation issues in the village was a natural progression from its focus on the business district and development.

“Our goal is keeping Sag Harbor in a healthy balance,” she said. “And addressing transportation and traffic issues is a part of keeping the village functional.”

Despite Continued Neighbor Protest, Baron’s Cove Restaurant Approved by Sag Harbor Planning Board

Tags: , , , , , ,

By Kathryn G. Menu

A proposed restaurant at Baron’s Cove Inn was unanimously approved by the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board on Tuesday night, despite continued protests by neighbors. Some residents continue to question the legality of the restaurant under the village code and the potential noise they feel could impact them.

Beginning in the spring of 2011, owners KBR Associates announced they planned to incorporate a restaurant into the Baron’s Cove property as part of a redevelopment of the inn with the help of Cape Advisors, owners of the condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory on Division Street.

At the time, Cape Advisors served in a management role for KBR, but has since contracted to purchase the West Water Street, Sag Harbor property.

Starting in 2011, the entities proposed demolishing an existing 768 square-foot office that connects to the motel and building a new 3,710 square-foot, two-story restaurant, featuring 79 restaurant seats on the second floor and an eight seat bar with lobby area and retail space on the first floor.

The restaurant will feature three patios, two of which look out over the water and the resort’s pool, which will also host a concession stand.

In the summer of 2012, after the project came back in front of the planning board after being on hiatus over the winter, neighbors as well as the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor began to weigh in on the project. Some asked whether a bar space on a separate floor from the restaurant itself was legal under the village code. Others expressed concern about the noise impact the proposed bar and restaurant could have on the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Neighbors like Angela Scott said they were not opposed to the project itself, but were specifically concerned about the noise impact. Next door to Baron’s Cove Inn is the now defunct West Water Street condominium project, once the home of the bar Rocco’s, a late-night establishment which was a source of constant ire for many residents in that neighborhood.

Those concerns continued to find their way into the planning board’s meeting, albeit in written form, after village attorney Denise Schoen cautioned the board from allowing more public comment, since the record on the project had been closed.

Schoen’s response came as a result of chairman Neil Slevin’s suggestion that the board offer a public comment period for the handful of residents seated in the Municipal Building meeting room Tuesday night.

Schoen added that a letter, submitted by Save Sag Harbor, contained a question about whether or not the village code was being interpreted properly in this case. The letter raised concern about the possibility of Cape Advisors applying for an entertainment permit, required for all establishments that want to have live music indoors or outdoors in Sag Harbor Village. She said it would not be part of any formal record if in fact this case was appealed to a judicial body.

“The public comment period cannot go on forever,” she said. “At some point you do have to close it.”

Schoen said she was unsure what mechanism the board would use to reopen the hearing, but was not persuaded by the board to pursue that answer.

Board member Larry Perrine noted that at last month’s meeting the board had asked if anyone had more comments to make about the project and no one responded.

Board member Greg Ferraris added that issues challenging the building inspector’s opinion that this is, in fact, a legal accessory restaurant to the existing motel use as proposed are not issues the board can address. In September, the board reached out to building inspector Tim Platt for a second time asking him to review the plans and their legality under the code. He agreed the plan, which does not require any variances from the zoning board of appeals, does in fact meet code.

Schoen added issues like whether or not the village should clarify the code could only be taken up by the village board of trustees.

Board member Jack Tagliasacchi wondered about the entertainment public permit referred to in the Save Sag Harbor letter and whether that would upend the series of covenants Cape Advisors has promised to put on the property – covenants that will run with the land.

Under those restrictions, Cape Advisors has agreed to have last call for any alcohol in the outdoor dining area on a proposed patio no later than 10 p.m., all outdoor background music will end at 9 p.m. nightly, last call at the restaurant’s bar will be no later than midnight and the hours of the restaurant bar will be tied to the hours of the dining room. However room service will still be permitted to sell alcohol.

Cape Advisors has also agreed to prohibit bottle service of liquor and will not allow cover charges or entry fees, which are common calling cards of nightclubs.

The pool will also be restricted to hotel guests and their guests and will be closed at 9 p.m. as will the outdoor concession area.

Schoen noted Cape Advisors would still have a right to apply for the entertainment public permit, a permit that was designed to legalize live, non-amplified music — limited to three musicians in a group — as well as background music “within the confines of an establishment,” according to the village code.

Under that chapter, businesses also have the right to apply to the village board for three special request permits annually that allow businesses to extend live music beyond the village’s 2 a.m. limitation and allows live music to continue until 3 a.m.

Obtaining these permits requires the approval of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees.

“When the public feels threatened by the potential of an event, the obvious thing to do is to go to the village board of trustees and say, we don’t want Sag Harbor to be a party center,” said Slevin.

Slevin said he believed the work the board did with Cape Advisors to place restrictions on the property – a voluntary move by the firm, which was able to construct this project as of right according to Platt – will go a long way to alleviating noise.

The covenants – including those restricting outdoor music – said Schoen cannot be overturned without the planning board’s consent.

After the meeting, Scott – one of many neighbors concerned about the project – sent the planning board a letter stating she had hoped the board would reopen the public hearing because she believed the information about Cape Advisors seeking a special permit was raised after the public hearing was closed last month.

She added documentation Save Sag Harbor requested via the Freedom of Information Act was not available – not for lack of trying on the building department staff’s part – in a timely enough fashion for the organization to respond before the public hearing was closed.

“We respectfully request that the Planning Board put an end to this whole issue before it turns into another nightmare for the neighborhood,” said Scott and a group of neighboring property owners in a separate letter sent to the board. “We do not want to be sitting in our kitchens or on our back porches being forced to listen to background music or live entertainment all day long until 9 at night, everyday of the week.”


A Village Works to Maintain Its Balance in Changing Times

Tags: , , , , , , ,


By Kathryn G. Menu

When Greg Ferraris was a child, many storefronts in Sag Harbor were boarded shut. Economic activity was scarce beyond the day-to-day needs of the local community, and residents were less worried about what businesses would come to Sag Harbor than those that would not.

Throughout his life Ferraris watched as the village transformed, anchor stores taking root and art galleries popping up right and left, creating a vibrant, but local business community that was the envy of surrounding towns.

A certified public accountant with Banducci, Katz & Ferraris, Ferraris said in an interview last week that Sag Harbor’s downtown evolved based on what the residents and second homeowners — the market — needed. He added that as things continue to grow, the village will continue on that track.

“I love Sag Harbor the way it was 20 years ago,” said Ferraris. “I love what the village is today. It will constantly adapt. The Village of Sag Harbor is not Disneyland. We can’t control everything, and some changes will be for the better, some will be for the worse.”

For a community that is so protective of its identity, change has not always been embraced by the people of Sag Harbor.

In 2007, with CVS Pharmacy looking to take over a large building on Long Island Avenue, the Village of Sag Harbor set about revamping what was considered an antiquated zoning code to handle the changes looming over Sag Harbor.

Led by then Mayor Ferraris, former Deputy Mayor Tiffany Scarlato, former village attorney Anthony Tohill and environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, the new code aimed to keep Sag Harbor’s downtown the vibrant, unique, walking village it had become.

“We looked at exactly what Sag Harbor was — the demographics, the sizes of stores, the types of stores — and we wanted to ensure what existed then would exist 20 years down the road,” said Ferraris. “Different types of industries and uses could be adapted through the new code, but we wanted to ensure we were not going to have large box stores or one retail store come in and buy four or five businesses and combine them. We wanted to maintain a diversity of uses.”

In 2009, the village enacted its new zoning code.

According to village attorney Denise Schoen, some of the major changes involved preventing office uses on the ground floor in the village business district in an effort to promote retail uses. It also limited the expansion of stores to a maximum of 3,000 square-feet, with the exception of grocery stores, hardware stores or home furnishing outlets, which can petition the village to become larger. The table of uses — definitions of the kinds of stores in Sag Harbor — was also expanded to give the village more oversight on potentially damaging changes to the downtown.

A small office district was also created around the periphery of the village business district to provide a place for new office space.

Offices that already existed on first floors in 2009, as well as businesses above 3,000 square-feet, are considered pre-existing, non-conforming to the code. If they change uses, however, they would have to go before the village boards for approval.

The new code also streamlined the planning process for minor changes happening on Main Street.

Because Sag Harbor Village’s business district is in a historic district, the code also gave sweeping powers to the historic preservation and architectural review board (ARB) to ensure any visible changes were consistent with the overall character of the village.

The code was ultimately supported by much of the business community, as well as Save Sag Harbor — a not-for-profit organization that developed out of concern that large, formula businesses may come into Sag Harbor. However, three years later, as economics have begun to threaten some local businesses, Save Sag Harbor director Susan Mead last week said it might be worthwhile for the village to take a second look at the code.

“But the code revisions the village enacted were very well thought out,” said Mead. “Taking a second look at the code is probably of less importance than taking a look at a Main Street program, the kind that has been used across the country for 30 years.”

Mead said Save Sag Harbor, for its part, would explore creation of a revolving fund dedicated to helping local business thrive, and would possibly consider purchasing key Main Street real estate spaces. It is also looking at Main Street program models and may bring experts into the village for a community conversation.

“Ultimately it will come down to whether or not the general populace of Sag Harbor truly wants it to remain a unique village,” said Mead, “because for this to work it is going to take a lot of private dollars.”

Sag Harbor Village is not alone in its quest to maintain a vibrant business district, and many communities throughout the country have relied on similar ordinances and not-for-profit initiatives to protect their downtowns.

According to Andrea Dono with the National Trust’s Main Street Center in Washington, D.C. commercial district gentrification is when an economy changes and businesses become priced out of a market. What commonly happens, said Dono, is a commercial district suffers from vacant storefronts while landlords seek out businesses that can afford the higher cost of doing business.

“The smartest thing to do is to get property owners to understand that having a sustainable, stable and long-term tenant is a good tenant to have,” said Dono.

In Sag Harbor’s case, Dono said a Main Street program would probably focus on business retention, working with landlords, business owners and the community to make business stronger and more marketable. That way, when rent does rise, as it should in a strong economy, the businesses are able to afford the increases.

In order to start this kind of program, Dono said a market analysis is performed to determine who is using the downtown. It also seeks to discover if businesses are meeting consumer demand and what the overall competitive advantage the business district has over neighboring downtowns.

“Some of our more advanced programs have gotten into becoming non-profit real estate developers, which is excellent,” said Dono. “They develop economic development plans that determine what businesses are important to keep in a community, and what businesses are needed, so you have a clear idea of who you want to rent or sell a property to.”

Often, not-for-profit revolving funds are found in communities that need downtown revitalization.

In Galveston, Texas, the Galveston Historical Foundation created a revolving fund in the 1970s to save what executive director Dwayne Jones called “a declining, and pretty dead, business district.”

According to Jones, the foundation bought buildings in Galveston’s 12-block historic district, restored them and resold them to sensitive developers. Properties were generally sold with deed restrictions, he added, to ensure facades remained in keeping with Galveston’s historic aesthetic.

A case study closer to Sag Harbor Village is Nantucket, Massachusetts.

In Nantucket, the preservation of Main Street has come through a combination of planning and zoning ordinances as well as the work of a not-for-profit group, ReMain Nantucket.

ReMain Nantucket is a philanthropic organization established by Wendy Schmidt, president of the Schmidt Family Foundation, which, according to the organization’s charter, is “dedicated to strengthening the lasting economic, environmental, and social vitality of downtown Nantucket, while preserving its unique character and spirit.”

Focused on looking at transportation solutions, analyzing the downtown and its needs, addressing infrastructure and promoting and encouraging Nantucket’s historic ties to its waterfront, ReMain has also taken on development projects.

In 2007, it purchased Mitchell’s Book Corner in an effort to preserve a decades-old business and re-leased the property to Mary Jennings, a longtime employee of the store. ReMain also established a public-private partnership with the Nantucket Community School to bring adult education to Nantucket’s downtown.

Another not-for-profit, The Nantucket Dreamland Foundation, came together to save a local movie theatre, the Dreamland Theater. The foundation is dedicated to using the theatre space to show films year-round, as well as educational programs, and to showcase performing arts.

However, the work in Nantucket is not just limited to ReMain’s efforts. The Town of Nantucket has historically been committed to preservation, said Nantucket Planning Director Andrew Vorce. In the 1930s, Nantucket received one of the earliest historic district designations in the country, but in recent years the town has also worked to enact zoning provisions that protect the town’s character.

Zoning was first established in Nantucket in 1972, but Vorce said the building standards did not conform to what historically existed on Main Street. In 2003, the code was amended to reduce those standards so that every business owner was not sent to the zoning board of appeals for every application.

In 2006, Vorce said the town adopted a formula business exclusion district around Nantucket’s downtown. Vorce said that in Nantucket the law passed and was upheld in court because there are commercial areas outside of the historic downtown where chain stores are allowed, formula businesses could not argue that they were being kept entirely out of Nantucket.

“We wanted to focus on protecting the critical area and make sure there are other places for chain stores to go,” said Vorce.

According to the legislation, a formula business in Nantucket is defined as a type of retail sales establishment, restaurant, tavern, bar, or take-out food establishment that has 14 of its kind worldwide. It also has two features the town identified as being standard in a formula business, like trademark phrases, signs, standardized menus or uniforms and standardized design concepts.

Vorce noted that if a national chain created a non-standardized version of its store, they could be permitted into the historic business district.

Vorce said the decision to implement the legislation came after Nantucket residents watched as the downtown became geared toward luxury items. A Ralph Lauren store moving into an old weaver’s shop that had long supported local artisans was one of the canaries in the coal mine that led the town to look towards formula business restrictions.

According to former planning director John Pagini, the town also has been committed to regional transit and has also focused on affordable housing initiatives.

Vorce said the work of ReMain has been critical to preserving uses in the downtown that could not have survived the economics of Nantucket. Outside of the book store, Vorce said ReMain has also subsidized a music school and bakery in Nantucket.

“From a planning perspective, you want that mix of business in a downtown,” said Vorce. “It has been a wonderful gift.”

That being said, as Pagini noted, to a certain extent change is inevitable.

“It is something Nantucket has struggled with, but the market has determined what the character of uses are in the downtown, less so our zoning,” said Pagini. “Zoning and architectural controls preserve the façade, but it is the free market we are doing this under.”

Breckenridge, Colorado, perched in the mountains above Denver, faced another issue that planners in Sag Harbor Village tried to circumvent in the 2009 code revision — real estate offices dominating a downtown, taking away from the walk-ability of a village.

“We were really unhappy with how many real estate offices were occupying prime real estate in the downtown,” said Peter Grosshuesch, the manager of the town’s community development department.

Unlike Sag Harbor, Breckenridge was unsuccessful in banning offices on first floors. Grosshuesch said the town was eventually successful in prohibiting residential first floors in the downtown unless they met a 40-foot setback to the street. The town also brought in retailing experts and focused on the curb appeal of storefronts and the downtown in general.

As for formula businesses, while they are not outlawed in Breckenridge, Grosshuesch said they are not exactly welcomed with open arms.

“It’s not a written policy, but the town council has never lifted a finger to help a national chain come in,” he said. “But there are some national chains, so it is not as if we are pure as the driven snow.”

While a Main Street program is possible in Sag Harbor Village, whether or not formula based restrictions will apply is unclear.

John Nolan, a Pace Law School professor said that zoning requirements have to further the public health, safety and welfare of a community in a specific way. It could be argued that it would be difficult to tie a formula business restriction to furthering the public health, safety and welfare of a village, he said.

“It cannot be done to thwart competition,” said Nolan. “If the objective is to keep local businesses in operation, that is different because you cannot use zoning to protect businesses from competition.”

Nolan did say if a municipality could show why public health, safety and welfare is tied to a formula business restriction, it could be successful.

Nolan said communities enacting this kind of regulation have to be wary of federal protection of interstate commerce, prohibiting local municipalities from enacting legislation that threatens interstate commerce.

According to planner Bill Spikowski, of Spikowski Planning Associates in Fort Meyers, Florida, the Village of Sag Harbor has already gone a long way in terms of its zoning code to protect its downtown.

Spikowski is an expert in form-based codes, which unlike the traditional Euclidian zoning, focuses on regulating the physical forms in a downtown to control development rather than try to control development by regulating uses.

“You want small spaces, you want them near the street, and you want parking on the street or behind a downtown,” said Spikowski.

Limiting the size of stores and having strict historic district design standards have traditionally kept out a lot of formula businesses, said Spikowski.

“Those are the things I would recommend if your village was not already doing it, so you may be in pretty good shape,” said Spikowski.

“I think it went far enough,” said Ferraris of Sag Harbor’s new zoning code. “It doesn’t place restrictions on property owners where they cannot use that property as an economic resource, but by limiting square footages you basically guarantee you will have these smaller shops in the future which in turn will restrict the possibility of national chains coming into Sag Harbor. That being said, there probably are spaces on Main Street that are enticing to a national retailer and if that should happen, it will happen.”

“I would say in my mind I consider the code a work in progress,” said current mayor Brian Gilbride. “To me, on Main Street, I can remember Ann Schiavoni being in Schiavoni’s Market, Marty’s Barbershop being where the produce area is now. I remember the Five and Dime when Mr. Hansen was there, and the Sag Harbor Pharmacy as a kid. So is Sag Harbor, changing? Yeah, but I believe Sag Harbor has survived.”