Tag Archive | "Save Sag Harbor"

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.”


Volunteerism is Alive and Well in Sag Harbor

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“Sag Harbor Village and the surrounding area does not seem apathetic,” Gail Slevin said on Sunday. “It is hard to walk down Main Street without being stopped to sign a petition every day.”

For Slevin, getting involved in some of the numerous causes championed by village residents began when local activist Mia Grosjean knocked on her door in the early 1990s, looking for support for traffic calming on Route 114 coming into Sag Harbor.

The very next day, said Slevin, two women showed up at her door dressed as cows, decrying development of the Cilli Farm.

And that was just the beginning for Slevin, who is a member of the Friends of the John Jermain Memorial Library and the Sag Harbor Tree Fund, among other village organizations. Slevin joined over 50 village residents of a similar spirit at Sunday afternoon’s Save Sag Harbor-sponsored community meeting, which was conceived to bring together the dozens of village volunteer organizations together to update each other on goals and fundraisers, some finding common ground and an inspiration to work together on future projects.

“As I see Sag Harbor, it is a real American village with a real American can-do spirit,” said Grosjean, who is president of Save Sag Harbor, the organization that sponsored the forum. Grosjean noted Sag Harbor is home to over 20 volunteer-centered organizations, and it is incumbent on organizations such as these to tackle issues communities can’t delegate to its local government.

“Realizing many hands do make light work,” Save Sag Harbor decided to host the forum, said Grosjean, to bring the village’s varied groups together.

Gigi Morris, who has developed the local environmental group 725-GREEN, opened the meeting by discussing the work her fledgling organization has begun in an effort to create a more sustainable Sag Harbor.

“I am hoping people will start taking ownership of this as we paint our village green,” she said, noting several businesses are looking at putting solar panels on their roofs, and since the organization started offering them, at least 40 residents have had home energy audits in the hopes of reducing their carbon footprint. The group is also looking to help the Sag Harbor Historical and Whaling Museum develop a village-wide green festival out of its second annual energy fair in July.

“I hope we can have community forums regularly,” said Morris, noting it would be beneficial for community groups to act “proactively and progressively as one group, and not as separate groups.”

Morris’s 725-GREEN was one of several environmental groups present at Sunday’s event. Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, the Peconic Baykeeper, the Sag Harbor Tree Committee and the Dark Sky Society also had representatives on hand.

While he may have butted heads with Sag Harbor officials over the last three years over the possibility of a stormwater runoff problem at Havens Beach, Peconic Baykeeper Kevin MacAllister told the crowd on Sunday that he was committed to working with the village towards a solution at the popular bathing beach.

“There are problems in the ditch – no question about it,” said MacAllister, who vowed to continue testing at the site with the help of Stony Brook Southampton associate professor Chris Gobler through the summer season.

“We need people to participate because apathy is going to destroy our village, destroy our quality of life and destroy our waterways,” said MacAllister.

Ken Dorph, literally wearing several hats on Sunday – including the frog of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt (FLPG) – advocated not only for that organization’s mission towards the preservation, stewardship and appreciation of the Long Pond Greenbelt, but also updated the crowd on his hopes for a Safe Routes to School program in Sag Harbor and announced a lecture on the Middle East later this summer at the John Jermain Memorial Library.

The FLPG, which holds educational walks, keeps the Greenbelt clean and actively removes invasive species from the 600-acre preserve, has also been responsible for a grasslands restoration project at Vineyard Field, located just behind the South Fork Natural History Museum off the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike.

Wearing a bike helmet, Dorph also expressed his hopes that Sag Harbor will eventually benefit from federal Safe Routes to School funding and called on village officials to develop a master plan to deal with traffic calming projects throughout Sag Harbor.

Safe Routes to School is a federally funded program that encourages biking and walking to school – an environmental benefit, but also a measure to cut down on the high incidences of childhood obesity in the United States. Sag Harbor Village, with the help of Dorph, made strides last year to benefit from the program, but did not meet the application deadline, losing out on hundreds of thousands in funds had the application been approved, said Dorph.

“That cycle of funding is over, but I have talked to Congressman [Tim] Bishop and we may be able to get in on the next round,” said Dorph.

He credited Mayor Greg Ferraris for attempting to implement traffic calming on Jermain Avenue, which connects the schools in Sag Harbor to Mashashimuet Park, but said he would like to see a master plan implemented by village officials to address roadways.

The forum also hosted a number of community organizations including the cancer resource center Fighting Chance, the Sag Harbor Food Pantry, the Sag Harbor Youth Committee, The Retreat, the Mashashimuet Park Board and Youth Advocacy and Resource Development (YARD). Groups like the Sag Harbor Historical Society and the Old Burial Ground Committee also explained their missions towards preserving Sag Harbor history.

The Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor (CONPOSH) represents an umbrella organization of sorts, advocating and hosting forums on any issue brought up in Sag Harbor from water quality to traffic to development. CONPOSH will also host a “Meet the Candidates” forum on June 7 to inform the community about candidates running for office in Sag Harbor.

Similarly, Save Sag Harbor was formed two years ago in an effort to preserve the mom-and-pop character of the village’s business district, but has evolved into an organization that also promotes community events and organization, and keeps its membership, which is in the thousands, updated via e-mail on government and community news.

Supportive of the village’s zoning code revision – legislation just weeks away from adoption – Grosjean said the organization’s focus would return to promoting Main Street, Sag Harbor through a marketing campaign.

“We realize without a Main Street that is alive and well, this is not Sag Harbor,” said Grosjean. 

 

Questions on New Code Remain

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By Marissa Maier

It was 15 minutes before the public hearing on the proposed new village zoning code, but Sag Harbor’s municipal meeting room was already filled to capacity. Members of Save Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Business Association waved to one another as they took their seats. Others talked in huddled groups. When the mayor and village trustees took their seats, the crowd hushed.

It was nearly two years ago that trustee Tiffany Scarlato and mayor Greg Ferraris began exploring a revision of the village code, which was last fully updated in the 1980s.

The code was full of inconsistencies and outdated provisions, said Ferraris. Over the years the code had been amended in a patchwork fashion, added Scarlato. Unprecedented development projects like the proposed condo complex at the Bulova factory and CVS’ purported interest in opening a store in the village has further brought the code issue to the forefront in the community.

Scarlato and Ferraris hired village attorney Anthony Tohill and planning consultant Richard Warren to research planning materials, zoning law and concepts. The final product of their work was compiled in “Planning Strategies for the Incorporated Village of Sag Harbor” a document which became a comprehensive plan for the new village zoning code.

The revised code was officially proposed in the spring of 2008. Since then the code has been revised based on public comments gathered at previous public forums.
At the end of his opening statement on Thursday, January 29, Ferraris said he hoped to facilitate a dialogue between the board and the public. Ted Conklin, a member of the Sag Harbor Business Association and owner of The American Hotel, was the first community member to speak.

“The vision of the future Sag Harbor is not terribly different from one camp to the other … But [the association] believes this code will put small businesses in peril,” said Conklin referencing a document prepared for the group by EEK architects, who studied the new code.

In the report, Stanley Eckstut of EEK cited the 3,000 maximum square footage allowance for ground floor business, codifying permitted retail space uses and hindering office uses on second floors in the village business district as measures that would hurt village economics.

“Creating rules that make it difficult to lease the ground floors for active paying tenants will jeopardize the ability of the buildings to remain financially viable,” wrote Eckstut who also referenced a provision in the code which prohibited creating new offices on the second floor in the VB or Village Business District.

“Restricting the upper floors from accommodating the very uses that are considered objectionable on the ground floor is counterproductive,” wrote Eckstut.

But the board countered Eckstut’s concern by noting that the code will soon be revised and building owners will be permitted to create office or residential space on the second floor of their building, as long as they visit the building department for a new Certificate of Occupancy with the stated use.

Further, board members said that if a retail space is under 3,000 square feet and an owner wants to change from one permitted use to another, the building department will give the owner a waiver to change the use. The owner would not have to visit the planning board, the board noted, because the change doesn’t require a site plan review.

Phil Bucking, whose sister, Lisa Field, runs the Sag Harbor Variety Store, said it would be harder for her to sell the business in the future because the store is over 3,000 square feet.

Ferraris said that if the Variety Store was turned into another permitted use, they would visit the planning board and request a waiver for the site plan review. The waiver would most likely be granted, as long as the change of use didn’t include an expansion, added capacity or required additional parking or sewage usage. These conditions would require a new site plan review of the space.

“Under the proposed code, the process is formalized and streamlined,” said Ferraris following the hearing. “Before, a lot was left up to the building inspector, but now there is a process.”

Conklin asked for the planning board to have a time schedule for applications and site plan reviews, and also a fee cap.

After the meeting, Scarlato said this wouldn’t be feasible because the village doesn’t have in-house planning staff who work on a regular basis. Instead, the village out-sources planning and engineering work.

David Lee, who manages a number of Main Street buildings, spoke out against a provision in the code which he said gave the ARB (Architectural Review Board) the power to review the interiors of retail spaces.

Tohill, however, later read from the code and stated the ARB has no such power.
In an advertisement that appears in this week’s issue of the Express, the Sag Harbor Business Association asks the village to “delay implementing the office district until we know the impact.”

Association member Jeff Sander asked the board to conduct a comprehensive review of the business owner’s specific concerns. A hefty list of business and property owners who are either against the code, or still on the fence, is included in the advertisement.
Save Sag Harbor’s lawyer Jeff Bragman agreed with the business association on the need to permit office and residential uses on the second floor, and congratulated the board on this revision.

“I thought the hearing was very impressive,” said Bragman later. “I think the board has done a good job at incorporating public comment into the code.”

Save Sag Harbor member Robert Stein, however, wished the code was more restrictive in regards to neighborhood density for daycare facilities and bed-and-breakfasts. Recognizing this concern after the hearing, Ferraris said the village was exploring revising this provision of the code. In the current draft of the code, both establishments need to alert neighbors in a 200 foot radius that they will set-up shop. Ferraris, however, proposes changing this to a 500 foot radius.

Despite the many divergent views that have surfaced throughout the code process, several community members spoke out to express a similar vision for Sag Harbor — one in which the village remains a pedestrian friendly, historical and commercially diverse place.

“I think everyone wants the code to be satisfactory for all the parties involved,” said Save Sag Harbor member April Gornick.

The next public hearing on the code will be held Friday, February 13 at 5 p.m. at the municipal building on Main Street.

New Code Sparks Praise and Scorn

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By Marissa Maier

When Jeff Sander started visiting Sag Harbor as a child in the 1940s and 1950s, the village was far from the destination it is today. Sander recalls a village with boarded up storefronts, closed factories, and a dilapidated wharf.

In those desperate times, who would have guessed that nearly 40 years later the village would be economically thriving, and a beacon of Hampton’s architectural and historical character. A few years ago, the village was doing so well that CVS Pharmacy was interested in leasing a Long Island Avenue space.

Barry Marcus, co-owner of the Sag Harbor Pharmacy, remembers the day in the summer of 2007 when a CVS representative visited the shop and offered to buy out the smaller pharmacy before CVS moved in.

“I told him ‘You can’t offer me enough to make me leave this business. I am not going to abandon Sag Harbor,’” said Marcus. For many local residents, the potential for CVS to gobble up the local “mom-and-pop” pharmacy was a symbol of how the village was vulnerable to encroaching commercial development. The pharmacy was a particularly poignant example because it has operated out of the same Sag Harbor building since the 19th century.

Even before CVS, village trustee Tiffany Scarlato and mayor Greg Ferraris were aware that Sag Harbor’s patchwork zoning code needed to be updated and streamlined, and also address public outcry over big box stores. The code hadn’t been fully revised since the early 1980s and Ferraris said it was filled with “contradictions and loopholes.”

It wasn’t until spring 2008 that a new village code was proposed, and by mid-summer a comprehensive plan was available for the public to review.

With the current draft of the new code, village officials hope to maintain the tenuous balance between protecting the character of Main Street, with its lack of formula stores and small-town feel, while also promoting the village’s development and economic viability.

The new code seeks to redefine the village’s several districts, including a residential district, a resort motel district, a waterfront district, a village business (VB) district and an office business (OB) district. Of these districts, the ones that have received the most public scrutiny have been the VB and OB. The VB is mainly located on Main Street and includes all of the peripheral business sites around the village. The OB is also located in areas on the periphery of Main Street, specifically on Long Island Avenue and Division and Meadow streets.

All of the types of businesses found on Main Street today will still be permitted to operate in the VB district, except for professional offices and business, like banks and real estate agencies. Should a new bank or real estate agency seek to open in the village, these businesses would need to operate in the OB district.

Under New York State Law, the village cannot explicitly ban big box or formula stores. The new code, however, discourages big box and formula stores from setting up shop in the village by limiting the size of stores and restricting formula signage.

The size of a retail space is capped at 3,000 square feet in the new code. If a business 3,000 square feet or less wanted to change their store from one permitted use, like a clothing store, to another permitted use, like a music store, they wouldn’t need site plan approval from the village boards. Instead, the owner would simply visit the building department to change to another permitted use.

There is also a square footage exception for supermarkets, hardware stores and furniture stores which are given a maximum 8,000 square feet.

“We made some exceptions for the things that already exist like the hardware store, Schiavoni’s and Fishers [Antiques], so these would not be made pre-existing non-conforming [under the new code] if someone wanted to buy those spaces,” said Scarlato.

One provision under the code also states that any office on the second floor of a VB building must be an accessory office to the ground floor business, and not used for a separate business.

These provisions of the new code have received both praise and criticism from local organizations.

The Sag Harbor Business Association applauds the village for trying to stave off big box stores, but worries that the other size restrictions and the VB and OB usage restrictions will hurt local business.

“In an economic downturn, business owners try to get any tenants that they can, but they are limited in the types of business they can operate in their retail space,” said Sander, a North Haven Village Trustee and member of the Sag Harbor Business Association who fears that the code goes to an extreme in determining how local businesses operate.

“I think economics are going to dictate how Sag Harbor evolves,” he said. “If people want the five-and-ten they will shop there, but if people want an upscale chain store then that is the kind of establishment that will survive.”

In a letter written to the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees on December 8, 2008, Robert Evjen, President of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and Robert Fisher, director of the Sag Harbor Business Association, asked the board to “only address the actions effecting superstores” and shelve the other code changes until “we all see where the economy is headed.”

Another group, the Save Sag Harbor organization, however, feels it is imperative to have a new code enacted as soon as possible.

“It is our single best shot to keep big stores out,” said Mia Grosjean, president of Save Sag Harbor.

“This is not a radical code,” added Jeffrey Bragman, the lawyer for Save Sag Harbor. “For people who deal with zoning codes, it’s pretty much down the middle. It supplies the kind of detail and clarity in procedure that is long overdue.”

Save Sag Harbor would also like to see stores under 3,000 square feet changing from one permitted use to another still go before the planning board.

“It would be an administrative site plan review,” said Bragman. “We want it to go through some kind of process so that the village has a record of it.”

“The code is a longtime overdue,” said pharmacist Marcus, who said other merchants share some of his views. He concedes, however, that “you are going to have pluses and minuses.”

Members from local organizations are likely to appear at the January 29 public hearing on the new zoning code, which will be held at the Sag Harbor Municipal Building at 5 p.m. The code is available for review at www.sagharborny.gov.

 

Seeking to Support Main Street

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An update on proposed changes to the Sag Harbor Village code evolved on Sunday into a discussion about how the village’s businesses can best market themselves, during Save Sag Harbor’s community meeting at the Old Whalers Church.

Save Sag Harbor, which has organized a campaign urging residents and visitors to “Shop Locally” and has also brought representatives from the National Trust here to talk about opportunities to make the village more appealing for visitors, has been following the village’s development of its code revisions, with an eye toward protecting the Main Street character.

The code is preparing to go into a State Environmental Quality Review, attorney Jeff Bragman told the 40 or so members of the community who attended the meeting. Bragman has been hired by Save Sag Harbor to review the code for its membership.

Bragman was generally bullish on the code, saying it had the “look, feel and structure” of a modern planning document.

“I think it’s important that this revision go through,” Bragman said. “This village has a history of cronyism and poor environmental review. This is a dramatic step forward.”

The proposed revisions, however, have suffered some criticism, notably from the Sag Harbor Business Association, which has said the changes will create too restrictive an environment and will limit what property owners can do with their commercial buildings.

“I know there’s a lot of talk about the economy, but that is not a rational cause for not accepting the code,” said Bragman. “Zoning is the bedrock of this village. It is charming, it is preserved, it is one of the last real Main Streets on the East End.”

The changes, Bragman maintained, will in fact enhance people’s interest in investing in the village.

Renee Shafransky asked if there could be legislation that would prevent big corporate stores from coming into the village.

“It’s tricky,” conceded Bragman. The safer way would be to include certain prohibitions that would be the same for all business types, designing some of those to address what is harmful about formula stores.

“Can you enumerate what you don’t like in formula stores and weave that into the legislation,” observed Bragman. “The new code as it is written has defensible language that restricts signage, for example.”

Michael Eicke, a member of the Business Association, was critical of the efforts SSH has made in reaching out to the business community.

“I’m concerned that you never really contacted us, the business people,” said Eicke. “I thought you would have gone shop to shop asking them what their idea of the future is.”

“We met with many businesses and the Business Association several times,” countered SSG board member Susan Mead.

“We did bring in the National Trust, which was meant as a bold step forward, to get the community to think in a big way what can be done,” said SSH board member Jayne Young. “I personally visited half the stores on Main Street.”

Frank D’Angelo, owner of Emporium Hardware, noted that when the group urges residents to “Shop Locally,” they are preaching to the converted. He agreed that some of the businesses could use “a little help” and questioned the code’s restriction requiring stores be less than 8,000 square feet.

“That’s a lot of building in Sag Harbor,” observed Bragman.

“No it’s not,” urged D’Angelo, who said the building that currently houses 7-Eleven and other stores could become an anchor grocery store that would attract people to the village consistently.

“There are a lot of people who do their shopping out of the area,” said D’Angelo.

SSH President Mia Grosjean said the group is making an effort to communicate with the business community and that they are willing to help coordinate marketing ideas for the village to get customers to Main Street now.

To that end, Mead suggested her group contact the approximately 1700 people in their email list to find a marketing expert who could work with Save Sag Harbor and the business community, to promote the idea of the value of shopping in Sag Harbor.

“Part of it is perception,” observed SSH board member April Gornik. “There are a lot of wealthy people but this is truly a very diverse business community. The perception in America is that if you don’t get your stuff at Wal-Mart you’re getting ripped off.”

At top, attorney Jeff Bragman encourages members of Save Sag Harbor to support revisions to the village’s zoning code.

 

Sag Trustees Extend Moratorium Six Months

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The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees extended a commercial moratorium in the village another six months on Wednesday, November 12, although according to trustee Tiffany Scarlato, this is the last time the board expects it will need to extend the moratorium, as it hopes to adopt a new zoning code before June.

The moratorium has been in place since June of 2007, and now legally can continue through June 2009. It was put in place as the village began discussing rewriting its zoning code, which had not been updated since the early 1980s.

“We have a zoning code we believe will be the one scheduled for public hearing,” said Scarlato last Wednesday. “I am anticipating, certainly by the end of 180 days, we will have that completed.”

“Hopefully sooner rather than later,” said trustee Brian Gilbride.

The new code, drafted by Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill and village environmental planning consultant Richard Warren has been met with both support and criticism since it was unveiled in the beginning of May. Preliminary recommendations for the draft code were presented in the fall of 2007.

Many members of the business community have expressed concerns that the new code may have been too restrictive, while other organizations have supported the re-write, which was conceived to protect the historic character of the commercial district, and maintain the diversity of uses that currently exist.

The draft code — which suggests shrinking the village business district to encompass primarily Main and Bay streets, creates an office district surrounding the core commercial district, restricts size of stores and addresses some affordable housing initiatives on its very surface — went through a number of revisions since May during a series of public meetings. But according to Scarlato, it is unlikely any more large revisions will be made to the code.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mia Grosjean, president of Save Sag Harbor — a community organization that formed over concerns about over-development in the village and the threat of an influx of chain stores — spoke, asking the code be approved “as soon as possible.”

She also gave the board draft language out of Southold that she says might more adequately deal with the concern Save Sag Harbor members have over the possibility of chains like CVS or Ralph Lauren setting up shop on Sag Harbor’s mom and pop Main Street.

“We have had a lot of dialogue about the new code and I think it has been very effective,” said Sag Harbor Business Association member Jeff Sander, wondering if there would be more review of the code and a required environmental review.

Ferraris explained that the board is expecting to receive an environmental impact statement by December, after which public hearings on the impact statement, the draft code and the comprehensive plan will be held.

In other news, for the second meeting in a row, Gilbride faced off against a representative from Maran Corporate Risk Insurance Associates. Steve Maietta approached the board trying to understand why Gilbride would ask the board to change the village’s insurance broker, abandoning its contract with Maran in favor of using Jeffrey Brown of Dayton Ritz and Osborne Insurance. Last month, at Gilbride’s urging, the board adopted a resolution making the change with mayor Greg Ferraris and trustee Ed Deyermond abstaining on the change.

Maietta told the board last Wednesday that he had submitted a proposal to Gilbride — a proposal he says shows that the change to Dayton Ritz and Osborne saves the village virtually no money.

Gilbride began by saying he had not seen the proposal until the evening of the village board meeting, but Maietta countered that he had a discussion with Gilbride earlier in the week when the trustee admitted he had the document, but did not want to open it. Maietta continued to maintain making the switch would save the village no money and therefore wondered why Gilbride would ask for the change.

Gilbride countered the switch would save the village $1,000, although Maietta disagreed with the figure.

As the board adopted the resolution last month, Dayton Ritz and Osborne is already officially the village’s insurance broker. The change in no way affects the village’s insurance or the cost for insurance.

 

Defining The Issues At Ferry Road

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The clock is ticking for the Sag Harbor Planning Board as they attempt to craft a list of potential impacts that need to be hashed out as a proposed condominium project at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road begins what is likely to be a lengthy environmental review.

On Thursday, October 16 at 6:30 p.m. the planning board will meet in a work session to hammer out a final list of issues they would like to see explored in the review of the proposed 18-unit condo project, which also is designed to include 18-accessory boat slips on one of the last vacant parcels of Sag Harbor’s waterfront.

On Tuesday, September 23, throngs of Sag Harbor residents, as well as residents from surrounding neighborhoods packed the Municipal Building to discuss potential impacts they see with the planned 43,040 square foot luxury development. The scale of the project and its impact on waterfront vistas, insuring public access to adjacent waterfront and protection of natural resources are among the issues already raised. Village environmental planning consultant Richard Warren had also provided the board with a laundry list of concerns he felt should be explored. The planning board’s task will now be to meld Warren’s suggestions, along with resident concerns, into an inventory of issues the applicant, East End Ventures, must publicly vet.

The Ferry Road project, as it has come to be known, has been in the pipeline for two years now, in several incarnations. Public opposition to the development emerged last year, as a discussion about important waterfront vistas and public access to the waterfront emerged as a central theme in the Ferry Road debate.

Architecturally, several plans have been developed for the project by at least three groups of designers; although according to project manager Mark D’Andrea a Sag Harbor architect has been hired by the firm to redesign the building again. Plans, however, have yet to be submitted to the board.

Regardless, the board is on a strict deadline for the submission of its list of issues to the applicant. The board must have a formal submission made by November 4 and will take next Thursday’s meeting to hash out what they think prior to adopting the catalog of concerns at its regular meeting on Tuesday, October 28. 

Save Sag Harbor Benefit Sold Out

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Like many bored teenagers, when Samanthe Lobosco, was in high school she and her friends would entertain themselves by driving around Main Street, Sag Harbor.

Despite the standard jaded, teenage feelings about small-town life, Lobosco says she would never want to see the small village she grew up in morph into another Village of East Hampton where one is more likely to track down a Gucci bag than a spool of thread.

So earlier this summer, Lobosco, a North Haven resident, reached out to Save Sag Harbor board member April Gornik with her plan to draw in a younger generation of supporters for the Save Sag Harbor movement with the help of her friend musician Alexa Ray Joel.

Joel is no stranger to the Save Sag Harbor cause, having performed last summer at a benefit that drew hundreds and raised thousands for the then fledgling not-for-profit, buoying the organization’s support system and bank balance. Daughter of famed musician Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley — both who have called Sag Harbor home — Joel considers Sag Harbor her hometown, and saving its Main Street from formula business stores, a personal cause she can get behind.

“This is our village too,” explained Lobosco on Tuesday. “Of course we want to help preserve it.”

On Saturday, August 30 Lobosco has organized a benefit concert featuring Alexa Ray Joel at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum from 7 to 9 p.m. The event, designed to be for the whole family, is priced at $30 — a price Lobosco picked in an effort to make the evening affordable for a younger generation of Save Sag Harbor supporters, who like her, are recent college graduates or current students looking to get involved in their community.

The event will also feature artwork by local painter Cuca Romley in a silent auction, cheeses donated by Cavaniola’s Gourmet Cheese Shop, wine from the Wolffer Estate Vineyards and baked goods from the newest Sag Harbor business, Amber Bakery on Long Island Avenue. Urban Zen was another business that chipped in, noted Lobosco, providing the tent for the benefit.

Save Sag Harbor, an incorporated not-for-profit, was originally conceived as a community-based group dedicated to preventing what they saw as the destruction of a mom-and-pop centric business district in Sag Harbor. It was formed last summer after pharmacy giant CVS announced they intended to set up shop in the Long Island Avenue building that now houses more than half-a-dozen businesses, including 7-Eleven.

For the last year, the organization has been focused on a Shop Locally campaign, as well as the village’s new zoning code, which in part is meant to preserve the small, historic and unique feel of Sag Harbor’s Main Street.

On Wednesday, Save Sag Harbor President Mia Grosjean said the organization was thrilled to have the support of Lobosco and Alexa Ray Joel, who she noted have planned virtually every aspect of Saturday’s benefit, giving the Save Sag Harbor board a much needed break.

“We need many hands on deck right now,” said Grosjean of the state of Sag Harbor and her organization’s concerns. “So much is happening in the village right now and we need more brains, we need more energy, we need more hands.”

Grosjean said this fundraiser was dedicated towards inspiring the next generation, but that the organization would push to find new members this year interested in taking an active role in the village. Currently, she added, the group’s main focuses are the proposed code and the condominium proposal at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road, which a number of Save Sag Harbor members have expressed reservations about.

As of Friday, August 29 the Save Sag Harbor benefit is SOLD OUT. 

 

New Village Code Moves Towards Public Hearing

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Despite over a half-dozen public meetings on the proposed changes to the Village of Sag Harbor zoning code, and subsequent revisions, the code is now just about to embark on a public hearing process after village officials said this week they will likely complete any major changes to the draft code in the next couple of weeks.

On Monday, August 4 the village board of trustees held a work session on the proposed code. The almost three-hour session was also devoted to hearing out the close to 100 people in attendance on issues like affordable housing, formula store concerns and worries over 24-hour convenience stores making their way to Sag Harbor.

Last year the Village of Sag Harbor embarked on the creation of a comprehensive plan and full code revision aiming to protect the character and historic feel of the village, address affordable housing and to help fend off the influx of big box stores.

On Monday, Mayor Greg Ferraris announced the newest two revisions to the zoning code, including putting the Brinkley parcel on Long Island Avenue back into the Waterfront District. It had been placed in the Office District – a district that has shrunk dramatically since the code was first unveiled in April – because of its size. The village will also not require businesses use Suffolk County Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirements for accessory apartments in the Village Business District – one of the affordable housing provisions proposed in the Local Workforce Housing Plan Ferraris developed last year.

“Just by the size and nature of the apartments we hope they will retain some affordability,” said Ferraris. An accessory review board, he added, will monitor the affordability of the units over the next year to year-and-a-half to see if changes need to be made.

The Office District, and specifically moving offices out of the Village Business District, has been a section of the code a number of building owners have taken exception with. On Wednesday, Ferraris noted a vast amount of research has been completed on the topic showing retail and restaurants bolster pedestrian traffic. In neighboring municipalities, like Southampton Village, officials are considering similar changes after pedestrian traffic began to die there.

Keeping residences, not offices, on the second floor was also important to the village as it buoyed affordable housing efforts the municipality has been striving to make. Ferraris said he would like to move forward with both eliminating offices in the Village Business District and with the current boundaries of the Office District. Current offices will retain a pre-existing, non-conforming status and can even change hands as office spaces, and second floor offices will be allowed as accessory to a first floor business.

Jane Holden, a Sag Harbor resident and real estate agent who works for Town & Country – a firm recently denied exemption from the moratorium for site plan review to move into the retail space Candy & Flowers – said she found it difficult to agree with the planning board’s decision because it effectively made a certificate of occupancy for the building moot.

Ferraris said uses were being considered as they appear today, not what existed in the past. Country Lane, the space next to Candy & Flowers, albeit in the same building, once had office space.

Trustee Tiffany Scarlato noted certificates of occupancy are suppose to be updated to reflect current uses.

Resident and building owner Larry Baum said he felt the board should create a percentage of spaces in the Village Business District that can be offices.

Ted Seiter, a building owner, said he did have a second floor office and wondered what would happen to the space under the proposed code.

Ferraris explained it could remain an office, change hands as an office and as long as it was never converted to an apartment would retain that status.

“Good,” said Seiter. “Anyone interested in renting an office?”

Frank D’Angelo, who owns Emporium True Value Hardware, said he viewed the burden placed on businesses to provide affordable housing ironic, as it was the gentrification of Sag Harbor in residential neighborhoods that made it an unaffordable place to live.

Ferraris noted the village is going to restrict the conversion of multi-family homes and in the future will require homeowners looking to build or expand their residences over a certain square footage pay into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.

D’Angelo said he hopes he will not hear the echo of “not in my backyard” when the first affordable housing project commences in Sag Harbor.

A superstore is now described as being 10,000 square feet, said Ferraris, although at the meeting Save Sag Harbor’s Susan Mead expressed concern formula businesses would still find their way into Sag Harbor regardless of the code.

Convenience stores are proposed as legal when accessory to a gas station, but Mia Grosjean expressed concern that could mean a 24-hour business in residential neighborhoods. The board cannot legally limit hours of operation, and said they would consider changing or revising this part of the code.

Above: Sag Harbor Village Planner Rich Warren and Village Attorney Anthony Tohill at the Sag Harbor Board of Trustee’s code work session on Monday, August 4. Second photo: A crowd of about 100 gathered in the Municipal Building to debate the draft code. Third photo: Jane Holden expresses concerns with aspects of the code that prevented Town & Country, the real estate company she works for, from moving into a Main Street, Sag Harbor retail location. Bottom photo: Frank D’Angelo, owner of Emporium True Value Hardware, talks about affordable housing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Code Gains Footing At Weekend Forum

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The proposed revisions to the Village of Sag Harbor’s zoning code has not been without controversy, as business and building owners alike have crowded meeting after meeting expressing concern that the changes could have a negative impact on their businesses. In turn, the village has made a number of changes to the planning and zoning document, which at its core, aims to protect the character and historic feel of the village, while also addressing affordable housing and putting measures in place the village hopes will fend off the influx of big box stores into the former whaling village.

But for those attending a special Saturday meeting on the code, it may have been difficult to discern that there was much opposition to the current plan, as virtually every speaker praised Sag Harbor officials for their effort.

On July 12 the village hosted the special work session in order to provide a forum for those residents who are generally unable to attend weekday, night meetings. What they were greeted with was a crowd that stood waiting outside the Municipal Building by 8:30 a.m., steadily growing in numbers until the 9 a.m. meeting commenced.

After a brief introduction to the code, provided by village attorney Anthony Tohill and village environmental consultant Richard Warren, the crowd of over 100 released a torrent of support at Sag Harbor officials, as one-by-one they discussed the code from their perspective.

In a nutshell, the new code proposes to shrink the village business district to encompass primarily Main Street and part of Bay Street, creating an Office District on the periphery, which has shrunk in size after village residents expressed concern about an Office District south of Rector Street off Division Street. The new code also merges the Waterfront and Marine districts, and expands the definitions of uses in the village. Provisions have also been included to eliminate the need for a business or building owner to go through any process for change of use should they be under 3,000 square feet, as long as that use does not change any parking or septic requirements and is permitted under the proposed code. Those businesses over 3,000 square feet would have to go to the planning board for a change of use, as well as site plan approval. An affordable housing plan, and greater guidelines for both the historic preservation and architectural review board and harbor committee are also laid out in the plan.

A comprehensive plan accompanies the document and is expected to be released next week, along with a new draft of the code detailing the number of changes the village has already implemented.

“One is an SUV as you can see, and one is a small trail bike,” joked Tohill comparing the proposed code to the existing code.

Attorney Jeff Bragman, who represents the some 1,500 members of Save Sag Harbor — an organization formed in response to development concerns last year — said he had a message to send from the large constituency Save Sag Harbor represents: the village needs an up-to-date zoning code. The current code was written in 1984.

Bragman said he has been moved watching the process that has unfolded in the last three months as the village has held a number of meetings to hear out resident concerns.

“I can really say after watching this process, come to Sag Harbor, watch how residents govern,” he said. “Come to Sag Harbor and see the law at work and in action … It was real democracy in action and it was quite moving.”

Bragman said Save Sag Harbor agreed with a number of changes, including the exemption for the need of a change of use for businesses under 3,000 square feet. He added they would like to see the village tackle more when it comes to formula stores, but that can be something that occurs down the road.

Bragman said the comprehensive plan need only address the specific goals of the village, adding “if you had to plan for everything before you did anything, you would accomplish nothing.”

He also said any request for a financial impact statement, he believed, was an attempt to derail the process.

David Epstein, a Sag Harbor resident and neighbor to the Glover Street house most recently slated to host a Lionel Ritchie concert — the concert was cancelled after village officials intervened — said he hoped the code would address ensuring commercial properties stay commercial and residential properties stay residential.

Susan Mead, a Texas attorney who now lives in Sag Harbor, said she wanted to ensure a limit of 2,000 square feet for new businesses in the village business district was kept in the proposed code. She also said she believed incentives needed to be developed for affordable housing for apartments on Main Street. Otherwise, she said, they will not be built. Building owner and resident Larry Baum agreed.

Resident Alex McNear commended the board on including a section of the code that addresses affordable housing.

“I do feel that Sag Harbor has been a little behind in this area,” she said, urging the board to ensure solar panels are allowed visibly in non-historic areas of the village.

The village will host another public meeting on the code on Monday, August 4 at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Municipal Building.

 Above: Save Sag Harbor vice president Lester Ware speaking to the board of trustee’s at Saturday’s code revision meeting. Middle: Over 100 people packed the Municipal Building to listen to the discussion on Sag Harbor’s new code. (k menu photos)