Tag Archive | "Save Sag Harbor"

Sag Harbor Likely to Move Forward with Traffic Calming This Spring

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.”

Meeting on Harbor Heights Proposal Rescheduled

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

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

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


Hope to “Save the Windmill”

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By Emily J. Weitz


The magic of Sag Harbor’s Main Street is almost impossible to taint, when the Christmas lights twinkle and the garlands are wrapped royally around white columns.

Almost, but not quite.

When storefronts stand vacant and the village’s landmark windmill looks crippled with its broken blade, it seems the recession has finally hit home.

The iconic windmill has been in need of repairs for some time, but when a major windstorm knocked a significant portion of one of the blades down a few weeks ago, its deteriorating condition became harder to ignore. Emails bounced around the circuits of concerned citizens, notably the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Save Sag Harbor.

Now, in a spirit reminiscent of the Sag Harbor Cinema sign restoration several years back, people are poised to pool their energy to save the windmill.

The only question is “How?”

It’s not like the windmill has been completely neglected. Built in the 1960s for the Old Whaler’s Festival, the village just completed a round of repairs including new siding and windows, at a cost of $8,700, according to Phil Bucking, a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

“The next round will include floor repairs, additional wood shingles, and replacement of the windmill blades,” he said in an email. “There are currently bids out on the different phases of the project. Once a blade design has been determined, cost estimates will be needed for them as well.”

Bucking says a contractor is researching a long-lasting design for the blades so they won’t need to be replaced again anytime soon. As for the siding, it’s now “a combination of new and old wood shingles,” says Bucking. “The goal is to re-side the entire building.”

“We want it to stay as a landmark,” says April Gornik, head of the advisory board at Save Sag Harbor, “and it also has to be safe. Blades can’t be falling off. All the blades most likely need to be replaced. There’s a lot to do.”

Because the blade came off in a windstorm, the first question was in regards to insurance, which was not immediately clear.

“I was told emphatically that there was no insurance on the windmill,” says Gornik, “and then I was told the opposite. We still need to establish who is really responsible, and whether there’s insurance, a deductible… Perhaps most importantly a fund needs to be established specific to the windmill. Once that happens, we’re in favor of working with the Chamber to make sure repairs occur.”

Save Sag Harbor has mobilized in the interest of village identity many times, and they are already planning how to raise the necessary funds for the windmill.

“We’d like to do something very family-oriented and fun,” says Gornik, “and have everyone join together because the windmill, like the movie theatre sign and the Whaling Museum, have both sentimental and historical significance to the village.”

Gornik envisions an event at a local restaurant, with lots of donated food and drinks, raffles and auctions.

“We’ll make it fun and big, and have it happen in the winter,” she says. “People need things to do in the winter. It’s just really important that everyone comes together.”

Bucking emphasizes the significance of the windmill as “a Sag Harbor icon. Repairs are needed. While the final cost hasn’t been determined, a project of this scope will cost several thousand dollars.”

The Chamber of Commerce and Save Sag Harbor are collaborating to organize the fundraising event.

“Over the coming weeks,” says Bucking, “the details will be worked out. Volunteers are needed so if anyone is interested in getting involved, they are encouraged to contact the Chamber (725-0011) or Save Sag Harbor (info@savesagharbor.com).”

It does seem, with closing businesses and buildings in need of some upkeep, that there’s a deeper resonance to the disrepair of the windmill.

“It has everything to do with the economy,” says Gornik. “It’s difficult for everyone… It’s hard to get people interested in things like this that might seem superfluous when they’re stressed about the economy. But it’s also a way to celebrate what we are, who we are, what we have and a shared pride we can enjoy in this area. Preserving buildings like this reminds people that we have a lot to be grateful for, and celebrate together. It’s important these things remain in good repair, as a celebration of who we are.”


Save Sag Harbor Proposes Recycling Bins for the Village of Sag Harbor

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North Haven artist April Gornik is drawn to beauty, which is one of the many reasons she lives on the East End. She considers Sag Harbor Village, a community that embraces and strongly protects its waterfront and historic aesthetic, her true home.

Which is why, as a member of the community concerned with protecting the environment, Gornik reached out to the local not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor two years ago in an effort to gain funding for the placement of recycling bins in the Village of Sag Harbor.

“We have an active and visible group of environmentalists in the village and it I thought one of the obvious things we should do is get recycling bins, marked for specific uses, to show that as a citizenry were are involved in environmental protection,” said Gornik in an interview on Tuesday.

After a year of planning, Save Sag Harbor has made a formal request to the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to allow them to donate three recycling bins to be placed in various locations on Main Street.

The organization has also reached an agreement with Suburban Sanitation owner Ralph Ficorelli, who will be a co-sponsor of the program with Save Sag Harbor, to pick up recyclables collected in the bins for free for one year.

In a letter sent to the village board on June 14, Save Sag Harbor’s Board of Directors asks the board to approve the initiative, and set up a meeting with Ficorelli to decide what locations would be appropriate for the bins, and what kind of pick-up schedule should be adopted for Suburban Sanitation.

“We hope this will be the foundation of a successful and larger program and look forward to working with you,” reads the letter.

Gornik and Save Sag Harbor Board member Susan Meade said on Tuesday that the organization searched out recycling bins that would be appropriate for the Village’s historic aesthetic. They chose a wrought-iron, dark green, rectangular bin with three openings for paper, bottles, cans and plastic, and general garbage.

According to Gornik, they were originally designed by the manufacturer OCC Outdoors to be used in New York’s historic Westchester County.

The Ladies Village Improvement Society of Sag Harbor was consulted on the design and according to Gornik and Mead has signed off on their aesthetic.

Gornik added the tops of bins are sized for their contents — a small, rectangular slot for newspapers, a small circular hole for bottles, cans and plastic and a small square for general refuse, making it difficult for people to dump even small bags of garage in the containers causing them to fill more quickly with non-recycled waste.

About a year ago, the board of Save Sag Harbor unanimously voted to purchase three of the containers for the Village of Sag Harbor. The containers will cost between $1,700 and $1,800 a piece, said Gornik, but are durable and will stand the test of time.

Mead said the board immediately decided to reach out to Suburban Sanitation, rather than place the responsibility of emptying the containers on the shoulders of the village’s Department of Public Works, viewing this ultimately as a one-year pilot program.

In January, Ficorelli agreed to donate his services. A small logo from Suburban Sanitation as well as Save Sag Harbor will be placed on the sides of the containers before they are given to the village, said Mead.

The location is up to the village, she added.

“Frankly, that an organization is offering to give them to the village is just great, but we feel like it is important that no one feels like this is being foisted on them,” said Gornik. “It’s a gift and I hope everyone sees this as something that can beautify the village.”

“We are happy to work with the village in any way to make sure this is something that they want us to do,” said Mead.

As for the on-going national debate over whether recyclables are actually being recycled in the face of dwindling returns on recyclable materials by companies that perform the duty, Gornik said she had faith in companies like Suburban Sanitation and that residents should continue to do their part.

“If you don’t try and make an effort and stand up for what you believe in, and take part in protecting the environment, you are truly a part of the problem,” said Gornik. “You have to stand up for what you believe in and trust the businesses in your community will do what they say they will do. Suburban Sanitation is a business I trust.”

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees is expected to address the correspondence from Save Sag Harbor at its Tuesday, July 12 meeting.

County Waffling on Long Wharf Sale

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By Kathryn G. Menu


Since last fall, the fate of the iconic Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, a county road operated by the Village of Sag Harbor through a lease that expired this past winter, has been in constant state of flux.

On Tuesday, with its impending sale to the Village of Sag Harbor tabled by the Suffolk County Legislature, it appears the county still hasn’t made up its mind about what to do with the wharf, much to the frustration of Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.

“You have to make up your mind,” said Gilbride on Wednesday morning. “Since this past fall, this has gone from the county wanting us to take the wharf for a dollar and give us $600,000 for long term maintenance, to the county giving it to us, but only with half that money, to the county saying we have to take the wharf and fix it ourselves. And now that County Executive Steve Levy is out of the running for another term, the county is saying, ‘Maybe we will keep it.’”

After much back and forth between Levy’s office, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Gilbride, in February the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees agreed to purchase Long Wharf from Suffolk County and take on the long-term maintenance costs associated with the facility. The village already pays for annual maintenance like re-striping parking spaces, winterization of the floating docks and general upkeep.

According to Gilbride, the village collects revenue from dockage at the wharf, which last year topped $95,000, but often the village brings in far less and certainly not enough to offset the cost of long term maintenance of Long Wharf which over the next decade could cost the village $621,000, according to a report compiled by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

Planning to create a dedicated reserve account to cover those costs, Gilbride said he was frustrated to learn the county legislature has now stalled on the Levy-sponsored bill to sell the wharf to the village, and Schneiderman admits he too was surprised by the outcome.

“The village seemed ready, but reluctant to take it and my position was I was ready, but reluctant to give it away,” said Schneiderman on Wednesday morning. “I would have preferred the county continue to maintain it with a village lease, but I fear if that happened it would not be maintained properly.”

Schneiderman said he did not vote to table the measure.

With the county in what Schneiderman called “very difficult financial times,” he said he was unsure the county would be able to afford the estimated $100,000 it spends annually on Long Wharf’s upkeep. With the wharf likely in need of being re-bulkheaded at some point — a costly project, said Schneiderman — the county legislator said he tried to explain to his colleagues that the wharf would have maintenance costs that exceed its current revenue.

On Tuesday, in session, Schneiderman said the discussion was not focused as much on giving the wharf away, but more a questioning of why the county would give away an asset it could make money from, through, for example, charging for parking on Long Wharf.

“I explained that could severely hurt local business, and in particular Bay Street Theatre,” said Schneiderman. “It could have an impact on the vitality of the downtown area, and typically the county is about revitalizing downtown areas.”

“To me it makes sense to have the village manage and own it and determine its future,” he said, adding it is his hope that at the June 7 meeting of the legislature they will vote to do just that.

Gilbride questioned whether the county would legally be able to have paid parking on Long Wharf should they decide to keep it for themselves, but also wondered how would it be enforced.

“And if you put county, paid parking down there, Bay Street Theatre might as well close its doors now,” said the mayor. “All we are doing on our end is trying to protect our theatre and our business district.”

 

Septic Law Goes Back to the Drawing Board

A proposed law aimed at protecting the health of the Peconic Estuary through regulation in the Village of Sag Harbor that would require homeowners have their septic or wastewater treatment systems checked once every three years will go back to the drawing board, according to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.

The draft law would have required residents to have any in-ground cesspool, septic tank or drain field inspected once every three years, starting four years after the law is adopted by the board.

An impetus for creating the draft law, said trustee Robby Stein, is that the county is looking specifically at Sag Harbor and three other waterfront communities that have sewage treatment plants to see if the plants should be expanded in an effort to reduce the number of in-ground septic systems on the waterfront.

“I think it is a little too much for us,” said Gilbride of the draft law. “I think we need to have some more discussion about this and then re-introduce a new law.”

Former mayor Pierce Hance said he would like to see a needs assessment study performed on the waterfront to see if nitrogen loading is in fact happening because of in-ground septic systems before the village moves forward.


Save Sag Harbor Hopes for Recycling Bins

Local not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor would like to install three recycling bins, each with a container for glass, paper and general trash, on Main Street, Sag Harbor this summer.

According to Save Sag Harbor President Mia Grosjean, the organization would pay for the cost of the three containers as well as regular pick-up service, which, after the village board meeting on Tuesday night, she said may be donated for one year by a provider the group has a tentative agreement with.

“Someone has to take care of it,” said Gilbride. “That was my issue the last time this came up.”

He added as long as the village could be assured someone would regularly clean the bins and pick up the recycling and trash, he was fine with the concept.


Thiele Asks for License Refund for Charter Boat Owners

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. has asked the New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Joseph Martens to refund the $400 fee many charter and party boat operators have already paid for a 2011 Saltwater Fishing license.

The State Legislature has repealed the license, however, according to Thiele, a number of captains had already paid the fee for 2011 before the repeal. The State has already authorized refunds for individual lifetime license holders.

“Charter boats in New York already pay the State of New York a $250 fee for a charter boat license, in addition to the repealed $400 saltwater fishing license,” said Thiele in a press release issued late last week. “The $400 fee should be returned. The $250 is already a higher cost of doing business for charter boats than most neighboring states.”