Tag Archive | "Tiffany Scarlato"

Two Men Released From Prison During County Investigation

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By Claire Walla

It was an announcement that shocked many last week. On Friday, May 25, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said two previously convicted drug dealers would be released from state prison, their charges fully dropped.

Bernard Cooks, 31, of Southampton and Mohammad Proctor, 36, of Riverside had both been convicted of felony charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance. Those convictions were based on charges brought by Southampton Town Police in relation to drug raids performed by the department’s now disbanded Street Crimes Unit.

Cooks had served nearly one year in prison, while Proctor had served two years, until their cases were reopened and their charges dropped last week.

According to the statement released by the D.A.’s office, both convictions were quickly revoked as the result of an ongoing investigation into the alleged misconduct of a Southampton Town Police officer who was assigned to the Street Crimes Unit.

The statement went on to explain the D.A.’s office had obtained information “that affects the credibility” of the officer, Lieutenant James Kiernan, who has since been suspended and faces 32 disciplinary charges.

“The minute [the D.A.’s office] knew about this, they moved with all possible speed to get my client released,” said Susan Menu, an attorney for Bernard Cooks. “They went above and beyond,” she added. “They even called up and made sure he was being released.”

Menu got the call from Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota two weeks ago.

“I was very surprised. I had not known about this coming down the pike,” she said, adding, “I know very little about the investigation.”

Menu was in court on Wednesday, May 23, representing Cooks, as well as Proctor, whom she represented on behalf of his lawyer, Sag Harbor resident Laura Solinger.

Menu made a motion to vacate the convictions, as the constitutional rights of both men had been violated, she explained. District Attorney Thomas Spota then officially dropped all charges, “in the interest of justice,” she added.

Like Menu, Solinger said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the news that the charges against her client were so suddenly dropped.

“My client’s very happy,” she said. Proctor’s two children, a girl under 5 and a teenage boy, had been taken into Child Protective Services when their father was sent to prison. Solinger said she spoke with her client Tuesday morning to explain how he could obtain a certificate of disposition — a document that would prove his indictments were dismissed — so he could be reunited with his children.

“The decision to release convicted drug dealers back into the community under these circumstances is not taken lightly and is made free from political consideration or favor, contrary to recent assertions made by former town and police officials,” Spota said in a statement released last Friday. “Rather, we are duty bound under the law to take this action.”

According to Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, “The town board has been instructed by myself not to make any comments.” This is primarily due to the fact that the investigation is ongoing and town board members have not been privy to the details of the case, she explained.

However, as she is also an attorney in private practice (her office is in Sag Harbor), Scarlato admitted she had “never” seen an investigation of this magnitude.

“No attorney I’ve spoken to has ever seen anything like this either,” she added.

According to the D.A.’s office, over 100 cases are still being reviewed as part of the ongoing investigation into the Street Crimes Unit.

“Our review continues of both pending and closed cases to determine what, if any, action is necessary,” the statement continued. “It is anticipated that other cases involving [the Street Crimes Unit] will be dismissed.”

HarborFrost Announced for 2012

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By Claire Walla


Riding the coattails of last year’s well-attended event, this year’s HarborFrost celebration was officially launched this week. And according to Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce member Robert Evjen, it will up the ante over last year’s inaugural fest.

In addition to fireworks over Long Wharf and ice sculptures on Main Street — both events are returning in keeping with the event’s “Fire and Ice” theme — Evjen said this year the event will also incorporate a three-and-a-half-hour set of live music, which he referred to as “Musical Brunch.”

“The bottom line is we wanted to extend the day over last year’s half-day event,” Evjen explained. The music will begin around 11:30 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. when the rest of the day’s activities will begin, starting with the first ice sculpture carved on Long Wharf. “We wanted to make it a full day this year and entice people to come down to the village early for brunch.”

And, of course, live music.

The musical portion of the day is being organized by Kelly Connaughton, head of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival (which, like HarborFrost, also made its debut in 2011). Though the details are still being hashed out, Connaughton said the morning will include performances by at least five artists (most likely local), who will play music in the various shops and businesses on Main Street.

The businesses will pay to host the artists and, Connaughton added, that fee will be partially supplemented by the Chamber of Commerce, which Connaughton said she hopes will give the businesses further incentive to pay for a show. In addition to providing live entertainment and bringing shoppers to Main Street, Connaughton added, “It will be great for us to get musicians earning some money in the lean winter months.”

So far, she said she’s received verbal commitments to host music from Page at 63 Main, Phao, Lifes’tyle and BookHampton.

As for the main attractions, Evjen said the fire dancers will be back this year, whipping strings of fire for a crowd at the foot of Long Wharf. Evjen said the Grucci family is already committed to doing the evening’s fireworks show and Fear No Ice will be here again this year (chain saws and all) to create two new ice sculptures on Main Street. The sculpting — to take place at 3 p.m. on Long Wharf and 4 p.m. behind the Civil War monument on the southern end of Main Street at the Madison Street split — will bookend HarborFrost’s fundraising Frosty Plunge, at 3:30 p.m.

In addition to making a mass of bodies shiver and teeth chatter, the event will raise money to benefit the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps. Last year’s event attracted a crowd of more than 50 participants and more than 100 spectators, according to Evjen. While TV personality Matt Lauer (a Noyac resident) and Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato (a Sag Harbor native) wowed crowds by bracing the cold at last year’s plunge, to shake things up this year, rumor has it the Sag Harbor Village Trustees will challenge Southampton Town officials in a race to raise funds for the plunge. (That’s just what we heard.)

As of yet, the 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. slot has not officially been filled with an event, but Evjen said this will most likely include some sort of race along Main Street. Whether this includes dog sleds or bed sleds — both ideas have been floated (the Chamber is currently looking for volunteers willing to conceptualize and organize the event)—the hypothetical race will in some way spotlight the HarborFrost King and Queen.

New to HarborFrost this year, the Sag Harbor Express will be organizing a contest for which those so inclined are encouraged to submit the names of individuals they believe should be crowned HarborFrost royalty. Details will be provided at a later date. (Check back in on our Facebook page for more.) Also, yoga instructor Hailey Schmitz will be hosting a candlelit yoga session at the Sag Harbor Gym Corp. and Dodds and Eder will organize an evening art show.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, February 11, with a rain date slated for Sunday the 12. Don’t worry, the weekend is sandwiched right between the Super Bowl and President’s Day weekend.

“Last year we planned HarborFrost during Super Bowl weekend, and we didn’t contemplate a snow date or a rain date,” Evjen explained.

When inclement weather threatened to rain on last year’s parade, Chamber members were caught in a pickle. (Fortunately, the rain that came down didn’t deter festival goers from enjoying the day.) This year, Evjen said they’re prepared.

“Our main concern is the fireworks,” he said. Evjen estimated the cost of the fireworks display would be about 60 percent of the event’s overall budget, which is currently estimated at around $10,000. (Last year’s HarborFrost cost about $7,000 to put on.) He added that this year’s fireworks display is expected to be even longer than last year’s.

“Although last year there was inclement weather,” Evjen continued, “The general atmosphere was great. The idea is to build upon that this year.”

Dems’ Campaign Video Sparks Ethical Debate

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By Claire Walla


On Tuesday, October 25 the Southampton Town GOP filed a claim against Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, alleging the board members violated the town’s code of ethics. Both women are up for re-election along with the newest member of their political team, Brad Bender, who is running for a second available council seat.

The GOP takes issue with scenes in a campaign video put out by the candidates, called “The Southampton Project,” which were filmed within Town Hall. According to Southampton Town GOP Chair William Wright, the scenes violate the ethics code because they make use of town property and feature a town employee (Throne-Holst’s assistant Jennifer Garvey, who speaks on the phone to the supervisor) for campaign purposes.

“This is not about whether I think the video is good or not, it violated town code,” Wright reiterated. “I know the other side says we’re grasping at straws, here … but we’re playing by the rules. They should be too.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Throne-Holst said the GOP claim is “baseless.”

“We were not filmed campaigning at town hall, or doing any sort of campaign work in the video,” she explained.

Southampton Democratic Committee Chair echoed Throne-Holst’s sentiments and downplayed the GOP’s claim.

“It’s pretty petty,” said Gordon Herr. “Anyway, the video’s already out there. It’s viral. [News of this claim] is probably going to make more people want to watch it.”

According to Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, all four members of the town’s ethics board have been notified of the complaint. Scarlato could not speak to the suit, saying only that it’s in the hands of the ethics board, which has full authority to decide the case and determine what potential repercussions might be appropriate, should Throne-Holst and Fleming’s video be determined unethical.

Fleming is a Democrat. Throne-Holst is a member of the Independence Party as is Bender — both are also running on the Democratic Party Line.

Luxury Events Nixed

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By Claire Walla


When luxury event planning company Gilt City was banished from its Hamptons headquarters at a house on Fithian Lane in East Hampton just last week, the New York City-based company packed up and moved west.

After securing a rental at 1432 Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton — another home zoned in a residential district — Gilt City continued to advertise high-priced Hamptons sojourns, which were to be based out of the Bridgehampton home. Southampton Town officials were not pleased.

“What we’re doing today is taking action,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said at a special board meeting held last Friday, August 12. With regard to two walk-on resolutions introduced by Councilwoman Nancy Graboski — one in reference to the house in Bridgehampton and the other in reference to a similar case at 2136 Deerfield Road in Noyac — the board voted unanimously to grant Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato the authority to “take any action necessary” to eliminate these illegal rental scenarios.

With regard to Deerfield Road, Mark Humphrey, a neighbor of the alleged party house, said before the town board: “This house is a nightmare.”

He continued to explain that the house has been “a nightmare” for four consecutive summers. “I have called the police on this particular renter no less than five times this summer,” he added. “One time, I couldn’t’ even find my driveway, there were so many cars… and I live across the street!” He estimated there have been up to 30 cars spilling out from the property’s main drive on any given night.

“The Town of Southampton has taken a hard stance on these kinds of situations, where a residential property is being used [illegally], whether as a prom house or a party house,” Graboski continued. She noted that the town adopted a more stringent rental code a few years ago, which grants town officials more control over rental properties in Southampton.

“And we’ve tightened up our special events law,” she continued. While “not-for-profits or entities that will benefit non-for-profits [are permitted] to hold special events, that’s usually on a one-night basis,” she clarified. More importantly, she added, “the law does not permit the operation of a business” out of a rental property.

Punctuating the importance of this decision, Councilman Jim Malone requested to be a co-sponsor of the resolution because of what he twice referred to as the “gravity of the situation.” Councilwoman Bridget Fleming followed his lead, co-sponsoring the resolution, as well.

Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said because both homes have been issued a number of violations, including having no rental or special event permits, she is seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) against them, which would bar the current renters from occupying the homes. As of this week, Scarlato said “the TRO was denied,” though she wouldn’t elaborate on the reasons why. However, representatives for both homes are due in court this Friday, August 19.

“The town will continue to keep a very sharp eye on exactly what’s going on in both of these houses,” Scarlato confirmed. “We will continue to act in a way that is beneficial for the neighborhood and the town.”

At least, Scarlato continued, since last Friday’s special board meeting “things were relatively quiet” at both homes over the weekend. While the town continues to take action to enforce the multiple violations issued both properties, Scarlato seemed pleased to know that, at the very least, Friday’s meeting helped quell the chaos.

Neighbors Protest Harbor Heights Expansion

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By Kathryn G. Menu


As a former member of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, Tiffany Scarlato was intimately involved with the revision of the village zoning code, which, in part, allowed gas stations to open convenience stores as an accessory use under fairly strict guidelines.

Armed with that knowledge, and as a neighbor of Harbor Heights Gas Station on Route 114, at Tuesday’s Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Scarlato came out in opposition to a plan to expand the gas station by adding a 1,000 square-foot convenience store.

The Sag Harbor-based attorney charged that the property’s owner, John Leonard, has the ability to build a convenience store within the limits of the village code and questioned how the zoning board could grant variances to allow the project to move forward.

Scarlato was not alone. She was joined by Harbor Heights Gas Station neighbor Michael Butler, as well as Save Sag Harbor President Mia Grosjean, who both questioned the size and scale of Leonard’s plans.

The Harbor Heights expansion has been before the village planning board for several months. Leonard hopes to demolish the existing 1,874 square-foot gas station building and erect an 1,842 square-foot building that will include a 1,000 square-foot convenience store on a re-configured property.

The new building would be constructed perpendicular to Route 114, connecting to the service station a second business on the property, which Leonard also hopes to expand with a new bathroom and office.

The Harbor Heights gas pumps, which now sit next to Route 114, would be moved to the north side of the property and covered by a 20-foot high canopy, which would be lit with Dark Sky compliant lights. The gas station currently has four fueling pumps for regular gasoline and a diesel pump, but, under Leonard’s proposal, would have seven pumps for regular gasoline and one for diesel.

While the Harbor Heights property is currently open to the road with one large curb, Leonard’s attorney Dennis Downes said the New York State Department of Transportation has been working towards the approval of a much smaller curb cut with one entrance and one exit to the property.

Leonard has also proposed landscaping on all three side of the property in order to screen the station from neighboring property owners.

While the village planning board is in the midst of its review of the project, it needs six variances from the zoning board to ultimately be approved.

Leonard needs a variance to allow the new convenience store building to be constructed 15.6-feet from Hampton Street, where 50-feet is required by the village code and at a height of 25.5 feet, where 20 feet would normally be allowed.

He also needs a variance to allow the construction of the fueling station island 23-feet from Hampton Street where 50-feet is required by code, and to build a 20-foot canopy, which would be five feet over what code allows.

According to Leonard’s engineer, Chris Tartaglia of Highpoint Engineering, the building would be constructed in the same location as the existing building, and the height would allow it to resemble a residence. The height of the canopy, he added, is to allow fuel tankers access to the pumps.

Turning the building so the short side of the structure faces Hampton Street is an attempt to reduce the visual massing of the building, Tartaglia said.

He added that Leonard has proposed 13 parking spaces behind the buildings, which will not be visible from the street, and said he is flanking the entire perimeter with “dense landscaping.”

Board member Michael Bromberg wondered why the new building was not being pushed to the back of the property, where it would conform to the village code.

Tartaglia said it was possible to build the structure off the back of the Sag Harbor Service Station, but that it would not be as visually pleasing, with the fuel pumps and service station becoming the focus of the property from Hampton Street.

Tartaglia said that if Leonard kept four fueling stations it would not be economically viable, with Downes noting that cars are often lined up in the road waiting to get gas, creating a hazard.

“I do use the gas station and I got to tell you it scares the hell out of me and the people in the village too,” said board member Brendan Skislock.

At Bromberg’s questioning, Downes said the gas station’s current hours of operation, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the off-season and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the summer, would not change once the convenience store opened, and that restriction could be written into planning board approval.

Another variance Leonard needs is to build a 1,000 square-foot convenience store, where the code only allows a 600 square-foot convenience store.

According to Tartaglia, in order to be competitive, Leonard needs the square footage to offer similar goods found at places like 7-Eleven.

Leonard needs two variances for landscape coverage. Tartaglia said the proposed landscape plan was the maximum the property could hold.

Lastly, Leonard needs a variance for the expansion of the service station, which is considered a pre-existing, non-conforming use.

But Scarlato questioned why Leonard could not simply adhere to the code requirements, which she said would still allow for a convenience store on the property.

“There is no reason why the applicant could not put the building on another part of the property,” she said.

Bromberg suggested the board require Leonard to show what he could build as of right on the property.

Butler, whose Eastville Avenue home is adjacent to the gas station, said he “did not relish the idea of looking out my windows and seeing a canopy with lights.”

Butler asked the zoning board to make Leonard adhere to landscaping requirements in the code, adding he was concerned about the overall aspect of “suburban sprawl” the project could create.

Leonard countered he was doing everything in his power to create a residential feel on the property and that his landscaping plan includes planting 16-foot tall trees around the border of the property.

“We are trying to do the right thing,” he said.

Grosjean, representing herself and also Save Sag Harbor, said she was concerned about any project that goes outside the limitations of the zoning code which was created to protect residents of the village.

The Harbor Heights application will continue its review in front of the planning board on Tuesday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m.

Tiffany Scarlato

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Tiffany Scarlato

By Kathryn G. Menu

The lifelong Sag Harbor resident and former member of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees talks about offering herself up as one of the brave souls participating in The Frosty Plunge at Windmill Beach during this weekend’s HarborFrost, provided she can raise $1,000 to support the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

So why support the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps this way? Why not join as a volunteer?
I can’t join. I am too chicken. My good friend Denise Schoen, who is a member of the corps, and I once traveled to France and England together. When we were in France someone was hit by a car right in front of us and Denise, of course, ran towards the guy lying in the road and I ran away from him. She had been asking me for years to join, and I told her over and over again, ‘I can’t, I can’t.’ And she would say, ‘Yes, you can.’ After that day, she agreed, ‘I can’t.’

A number of organizations and volunteer groups have felt the affects of the downturn in the economy in recent years. In terms of the ambulance corps, how has the recession impacted their bottom line?
I know donations through fundraising for the ambulance corps is down 25 percent this year and they need a new ambulance, which is one of the reasons I decided to do this. A lot of people don’t realize much of what funds the ambulance corps is private donations.

Leading up to the event, are you preparing for the plunge? Is there training involved?
No. I am going to put my bathing suit on and hope for the best. I have never done anything like this before. I usually don’t put a toenail in the water until July. I feel like it is better if I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, so I have decided not to worry until I wake up on Saturday morning and my husband turns to me and says, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ My son honestly thinks I am nuts. I will have some support though. My 14-year-old niece, Daja Scarlato, is going to do it with me.

So bikini or wetsuit?
I think I am going with a one-piece bathing suit. I actually already have it picked out and it is ready to go. I did make some grand statements at The American Hotel this weekend that hopefully no one picked up on. For example, that if I raise $5,000 I will wear a bikini.

You launched this campaign on Facebook, and by spreading the word to friends in the community. Why do you think people are so apt to support you in this endeavor? Is it for the ambulance corps or just to see you freeze your butt off?
I think it is probably a bit of both. I am hoping more people do it to support the ambulance corps, but I think there is some secret part of people who are doing it because they would like to see me freeze my butt off.

How much, approximately, have you raised so far?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I am not sure if some people are sending checks directly to the ambulance, but I do have a lot of verbal commitments and a lot of people who said they will bring cash by the office before the plunge or even money to the event. I do know that Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen said he has collected $500.

What is your game plan for the day of HarborFrost? How will you mentally prepare and will alcohol be involved?
I am going to prepare myself with lunch and a couple of Guinness at The Corner Bar.

And afterwards?
I am headed back to The Corner for more Guinness. Depending on how cold I am, it might be more than a couple.

This is the first year for HarborFrost, although organizers hope it will become an annual Sag Harbor tradition, alongside HarborFest. Do you see your role this year as being one that could become a tradition as well?
We will see how much money we make for the ambulance corps and how I feel after this year’s plunge about doing it again next year. I will definitely participate in HarborFrost in some shape or form next year. I love that we have events like HarborFest and now HarborFrost — it’s one of the things that makes Sag Harbor special. I am happy the plunge has created some excitement about the event, because I think until recently that was kind of lagging a little bit.

How important is having events like HarborFrost to Sag Harbor, from an economic perspective, but also as a community event?
I hope it has an economic impact. I know a lot of restaurants are participating with a $20.11 prix fixe menu and I do believe the fireworks will draw people into the village — that and hopefully that a bunch of lunatics are jumping in the water at the village beach.
It’s a difficult time and a difficult time of year, so I think this is also just about bringing people together. I feel like I can barely watch the news these days, there is so much going on, it sometimes feels like the world is falling apart. It will be nice to have a community get-together with so much turmoil in the world. I think people take comfort in that, and will come to HarborFrost for that reason alone. At least I hope they do. I don’t want to freeze my butt off for no reason.

Sag Harbor Village seems to be awash in volunteers, from those who serve the ambulance corps to the fire department and local not for profits. As a lifelong resident, why do you think the village is seemingly immune to the kind of apathy we see elsewhere?
I think it is because we have good people here. It is really that simple. I think people want to be a part of Sag Harbor, keep it beautiful, vibrant. The people who live here love Sag Harbor, and we don’t have the kind of issues going on here that you see elsewhere that can sidetrack people from that. Here, people drive down Main Street and they ask themselves, how can I be a part of this community. It is really as simple as that.

HarborFrost will be held on Saturday, February 5 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with The Frosty Plunge taking place off the village beach next to Long Wharf at 3:30 p.m. Hot soup will be provided by Phao Thai Kitchen, and hot showers at the Sag Harbor Gym.

Gilbride Vows to Fight for Waterfront Parcel

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On Tuesday night, following an executive session of the Sag Harbor Village Trustees, the board agreed to hire attorneys Denise Schoen and Brian Lester to explore countering an agreement by the Long Island Railroad’s Metropolitan Transit Authority to sell 16,000 square feet of property adjacent to village-owned waterfront to a condo developer rather than the village.

The decision followed a contentious village board meeting where, despite public support for the purchase, Trustee Tiffany Scarlato publicly opposed a continued fight for ownership of the parcel. Scarlato, who also voted against hiring Schoen and Lester to explore the matter further, cited legal concerns as the impetus for her decision. She noted East End Ventures, the company that has sought to adversely possess the MTA parcel as a part of their 18-unit luxury condo plan, is an applicant in front of the village’s planning board.

“I think the board has to do some serious thinking about the potential costs of engaging in litigation with a current applicant and the benefits of doing that,” said Scarlato.

Village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. strongly urged the board to cease conversation on the subject until it had adjourned into executive session.

At Tuesday’s village board meeting, several members of the community, including Save Sag Harbor board member April Gornik, Save Sag Harbor President Mia Grosjean and American Hotel owner Ted Conklin all expressed their gratitude to Gilbride for pursuing the property. In late July, Gilbride sent the last of several letters from the village to the MTA requesting they sell the property to the village, which has expressed interest in turning an adjacent waterfront parcel next to the Lance Corporal Haerter Veteran Memorial Bridge into a public park.

This week, Gilbride received a letter from vice president of the LIRR Christine Rinaldi announcing the authority intended to sell the property to East End Ventures at fair market value and that an easement granted to the village in 1915 was extinguished in 1930 when state Route 114 was rerouted and the parcel in question was no longer used for highway purposes.

“As a condition of the sale, East End Ventures has agreed to grant an easement to the general public across the property for the construction of a walkway,” writes Rinaldi in the letter, although the details of the easement have yet to be finalized.

“Don’t think for one minute that I am rolling over,” said Gilbride on Tuesday night. “I told [Rinaldi] I intend to vigorously fight for this for the residents.”





Looks Like Three for Mayor

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With June elections fast approaching, it’s shaping up to be an interesting campaign season as three prospective candidates have tentatively announced their candidacy for the position of Sag Harbor Village Mayor so far. Current mayor Greg Ferraris, whose term is up in June, told The Express in early February he wouldn’t seek re-election. Also up this June are two village trustee seats, including Ed Deyermond’s position. He, too, said he would not seek re-election. Ed Gregory, who holds the other available trustee seat, is undecided.

 According to Ferraris, one of the chief reasons for his decision to not run again was the amount of time he needed to devote to his mayoral responsibilities while also running an accounting business in recent years.

 “The demands on the position have increased over the three years I have been here, and well over the six years that I have served on the village board,” said Ferraris in February. “[Village] issues have become more complex. The demands on the village board from residents have increased.”

 With the mayoral position up for grabs, the village board might witness a little reshuffling as two Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustee members, Tiffany Scarlato and Brian Gilbride, have announced their intentions to run for mayor — although Gilbride says he hasn’t yet made a formal decision. Also throwing his hat into the ring is Jim Henry, a Sag Harbor attorney, author, business consultant and a 2007 Democratic candidate for Southampton Town Supervisor who recently picked up a petition from village hall and has expressed his intention to run for mayor.

 Scarlato has been on the board of trustees for almost six years, and is serving her third term on the board. Scarlato reported that when she first heard Ferraris would not run again, she “begged” him to reconsider, though he remained steadfast in his decision.

 “After I finished begging him, I decided it was a possibility [for me to run for mayor,]” said Scarlato.

 Currently, Scarlato is an assistant town attorney for East Hampton, though she added she doesn’t believe this will present a conflict of interest should she be elected mayor. Prior to becoming a village trustee, Scarlato said she conducted extensive research to make sure her two positions wouldn’t conflict. Of her interest in becoming mayor, Scarlato added that she has the energy to tackle the position, and ample experience in village affairs. Scarlato was also one of the main village officials who pushed to update the current village zoning code.

 Among the chief concerns for the next mayor, Scarlato said the village budget would be at the top of her priority list should she be elected.

 “I think the biggest issue [for the village right now] is fiscal responsibility,” said Scarlato. “I would focus most of my attention on that. The board as a whole has done a good job to pare down the budget and be as fiscally responsible as possible, but it has to be kept up.”

 Also considering a mayoral run is Sag Harbor Village Trustee Brian Gilbride who has been a mainstay on the village board for the past 15 years, and served as deputy mayor for nearly four years.

 “I am still thinking through it, but I am leaning towards saying yes,” said Gilbride of his mayoral candidacy.

 Aside from being a trustee, Gilbride has worked for the village in many different capacities. In 1966, he was hired by the village as an employee of the highway department, which led to a position with the maintenance department. Previously, Gilbride also served as the chief of the village fire department. He feels that his relationship with the village will help him, if he were to become mayor.

 “I worked with a lot of good people [in the village],” he said. “I have an understanding of how the village works, and I look forward to help continuing the way things are going now.”

 Seven years ago, Gilbride left a position with Norsic, the sanitation services company based on Long Island. As a retiree, Gilbride reports he isn’t “the least bit worried” about the amount of hours the village mayor puts into the position. Of the challenges facing the mayor, however, Gilbride reiterated Scarlato’s belief that fiscal and budgetary issues will be the chief issues the village will face in the coming year.

 “Hopefully the zoning code will be put to bed … Things are a little tough with the economy, but we [the village] are very conservative and started planning a year ago,” said Gilbride.

 Although the other prospective candidate, Jim Henry, hasn’t served on the village board, he has run for town office (Henry lost the 2007 supervisor’s race Linda Kabot), and also has business and economic experience. Henry created the Sag Harbor Group, a consulting firm for technology-based businesses. As an author, Henry has written investigative books on economical mismanagement and also pieces for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Nation, among others. 

 No candidates have stepped forward yet for the two trustee seats.

 In Sag Harbor, prospective mayoral and trustee candidates are permitted to submit signed petitions beginning March 31. The elections will be held on June 16.

 Over the bridge, two North Haven Village trustee seats will be open for election in June. The trustees currently holding the positions are Jeff Sander, a Main Street building owner, and Jim Smyth, the owner of The Corner Bar. In addition, two seats on the Sagaponack Village board will also be up for grabs come June. These seats are currently occupied by Alfred Kelman and Joy Seiger. No candidates have yet come forward to announce their intention to run for the positions in either village.

Above: Photos of Trustee Scarlato, Trustee Gilbride and Jim Henry. 

New Village Zoning Code Nears Final Draft

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After two-and-a-half years of zoning planning, code drafting, public forums and numerous revisions, the proposed village zoning code might be enacted as early as April. A public hearing on the new code held on Friday, February 13, yielded less public comment than in previous sessions. The discussion during the hearing was mainly devoted to the revisions which have been made to the code. An amended version of the code will be published in the near future.

The key revisions made to the code include second floor uses, the purview of the Historical Preservation and Architectural Review Board, the timeline for filing a Certificate of Occupancy and day care center and bed and breakfast notification. With the revisions, second floor spaces in the village business district are allowed to be used for retail, office or residential purposes. A confusing piece of language concerning the ARB’s jurisdiction was rewritten, and now clearly states that the ARB does not have jurisdiction over the uses of a retail space. Under the proposed zoning code, a new owner has thirty days to attain a Certificate of Occupancy. In addition, those interested in creating a bed and breakfast or day care center will need to notify their neighbors within a 500-foot radius, instead of only 200 feet.

 

Sag Harbor Planning Consultant Richard Warren presented two flow charts detailing the process for expansion and change of uses for retail spaces in the village business district. One flow chart showed the process for spaces 3,000 square feet and under, while the other chart detailed the process for spaces above 3,000 square feet. Warren added that special exception uses, which have received a measure of scrutiny from the public, are still permitted uses but simply have to meet a more stringent set of criteria, since they often involve more intensive uses. Warren gave the example of a shoe store changing into a restaurant, which is a special exeception use and requires more parking and sewage usage.

Members of the community still raised concerns over the ARB’s ability to govern interior designs which are visible from the street.

“This seems to restrain certain freedoms, [especially] the freedom of expression,” said Susan Sprott.

However, this provision predates the new zoning code and was enacted in 1994, said Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill. Members of the board added that the purview of the ARB doesn’t extend to merchandise in the retail space.

Overall, members of the board seemed satisfied with the revisions made to the code.

“I do think it went fairly well,” said Trustee Tiffany Scarlato of the hearing on Friday. “I think we are pretty much at the end of the line. I am pretty happy with the end result. Everyone didn’t get exactly what they wanted, but there was certainly a compromise.”

Throughout the discussions over the new zoning code, the issue of parking has come up again and again. According to mayor Greg Ferraris, the new zoning code was intended to handle zoning issues within the village, and not to ameliorate some of the village’s infrastructure problems, including parking.

Parking has been a highly debated issue within the village, well before the new village zoning code was proposed. During the summer season, village parking is often scarce and can lead to traffic congestion. At a recent public hearing on the new zoning code held on January 29, Alan Fruitstone, the owner of Harbor Pets, said many of his customers refer to Sag Harbor as a ‘drive through village’ in the summer months, due to parking and traffic problems. He implored the village to incorporate parking solutions into the new code.

The proposed village zoning code, however, does amend the village’s solution to traffic problems, by eliminating the parking trust fund. Culver commended the village for this move.

“I think eliminating the parking trust fund is a step in the right direction,” said Culver, during a later interview. “It created an unnecessary tension between business owners and the village.”

Culver also contended that parking is an issue which should be addressed in the coming years. He believes it is an opportune time for the village to create parking solutions.

“Now we have a group of folks who are focused on planning issues. Maybe we could now think of the future of the village in a visionary way and generate a discussion [on parking]” added Culver.

During the hearing on Friday, Ted Conklin, proprietor of the American Hotel, articulated these sentiments. Conklin hopes the village will also look into village infrastructure issues, including parking and sewage. “We need to commit ourselves to a visionary plan for the whole of Sag Harbor … Something that generations from now will be proud of,” said Conklin.

The next public hearing on the proposed zoning code will be held on March 19. If no revisions need to be made to the code after this hearing, the board will have to wait at least ten days to enact the new zoning code.

 

Above: Ted Conklin, owner of the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, calls for a “visionary plan” for the village. 

 

See video excerpts from the hearing at www.sagharboronline.com

 

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.