Tag Archive | "ZBA"

Harbor Heights Officially Denied by Sag Harbor ZBA

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Harbor Heights. Michael Heller photo.

A car pulls into Harbor Heights. Michael Heller photo.

By Kathryn G. Menu

The Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals officially denied most of the variances needed for John Leonard to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 on Tuesday.

The official determination comes a month after the ZBA in a straw poll approved just one of three variances being considered, effectively ending a proposal to re-develop and expand the Harbor Heights station to include a convenience store without requiring significant revision to the plans.

The Harbor Heights project involves the redevelopment of the gas station and neighboring Sag Harbor Service Station, including the addition of a convenience store, the relocation and expansion of gas pumps on the property, as well a new curb cut to Route 114, striped parking and landscaping.

The lone variance approved for the project by the ZBA was a front-yard setback variance, allowing Mr. Leonard, through his corporation Petroleum Ventures LLC, to construct the retail convenience store in the existing Harbor Heights building, which is 15.6 feet from Route 114 where a 50-foot setback is required under the village code.

At the work session last month, board members—sans Jennifer Ponzini who was absent from the proceedings—agreed the variance should be allowed as it does not change anything from what exists today.

“It’s not self created, I think, because the building is already there,” noted ZBA chairman Anton Hagen.

However, the board was also in agreement that a variance request to reduce the required landscape buffers around the perimeter of the property from 30 feet to between 9 and 19.4 feet, should be denied, calling it the first defense to shield neighbors from the impact of the project. Board members also noted if the size of the project was reduced, the landscape buffers could be larger, meaning it is something that could be achieved without needing relief from the board.

The ZBA also denied a variance to allow the size of the convenience store to exceed 600 square feet. The proposal called for a 718-square-foot store, excluding mechanical equipment, utilities, a storage area and ADA compliant bathrooms.

A variance looking at whether the addition of new fueling pumps would constitute an expansion of the station’s pre-existing, non-conforming status was deemed moot by the board given the denial of the convenience store.

Ms. Ponzini abstained from voting on Tuesday’s determination, with the remainder of the five-member board in agreement on all the variance decisions.

Following last month’s meeting, Mr. Leonard’s attorney, Dennis Downes, said he would defer comment until a final determination was made and only after he spoke to his client. Mr. Leonard has 30 days to apply to the ZBA with scaled back plans for the project. He can also file a lawsuit challenging the ZBA’s decision.

In other ZBA news, on Tuesday the board tabled an application from Charles Susi of Madison Street to allow for the construction of a 14-by-28-foot swimming pool in the front yard. Variances were also requested to allow the pool within 17 feet of the front lot line, where 35 feet is required and 5 feet from the east side lot line where 15 is required.

Planner Matt Ivans, with Suffolk Environmental, argued because the property was on a corner lot and was undersized, his clients were faced with a hardship. When asked by village attorney Fred Thiele, Jr. whether he had been able to uncover any previous cases where the ZBA allowed a pool in the front yard, Mr. Ivans said no.

“I have a general reluctance to granting variances for swimming pools,” said board member Tim McGuire, adding that was particularly true when a pool was proposed to be just five feet from a property line.

“I don’t have an issue giving variances for pools,” said board member Brendan Skislock, “ but we are opening up a can of worms granting it for a front yard.”

“The problem is once we put one in the front yard, we have put one in the front yard,” agreed board member Scott Baker.

Mr. Ivans agreed to talk to his clients and return for the board’s March 18 session.

Also tabled to that meeting was Jennifer Tierney’s application for a swimming pool on Madison Street. Ms. Tierney is requesting variances from the village’s wetlands code to allow for the pool, which is within 47.2 feet of the wetlands, where 75 feet is required.

Chairman Hagen asked that Tierney’s pool plans be scaled back.

Sag Harbor ZBA Tables Tutto il Giorno Request for More Seats

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Tutto il Giorno on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Tessa Raebeck photo.

Tutto il Giorno on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Tessa Raebeck photo.

By Kathryn G. Menu

When the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals approved the addition of 21 seats at LT Burger this fall, exempting the restaurant from having to fulfill parking requirements in the village code tied to seating, members knew it would likely result in a glut of applications by other eateries.

On Tuesday night, board members attempted to stave off that flood of requests, suggesting Bay Partners LLC, the company that owns the Tutto il Giorno property, should approach the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees rather than the ZBA in its quest to gain 21 additional outdoor seats at the Italian restaurant on Bay Street.

In order to legally add 21 seats at Tutto il Giorno, Bay Partners would need to either provide seven new parking spaces or earn a variance from the ZBA. Until 2009, the village allowed commercial property owners to pay into a parking fund when coming before the ZBA to seek a variance for parking. The applicant still had to show the ZBA the additional seating would not have a detrimental affect on the community, but if approved, it would be able to pay into a village fund earmarked to create more parking.

However, in 2009, the fund was abandoned during a village zoning code revision, as there were few ways to create more parking in the village.

On Tuesday, Tutto il Giorno manager Rachel Luria argued the restaurant has the space for the seating in its outdoor dining area, that outdoor dining is largely shielded from Bay Street by landscaping and that the restaurant is surrounded by daytime businesses not open during the busiest dining hours.

“You have every right to be before this board, but my question is are you in the right place,” said village attorney Fred Thiele, Jr. Thiele noted the argument being made by Luria is one that would be made by any restaurant in Sag Harbor, which is if the village looked at other benchmarks outside of parking—like the fire code or wastewater treatment availability—more seats could be easily achieved.

Mr. Thiele suggested what restaurant owners may be looking for is a change in the village code—a legislative decision that can only be made by the village board.

The village has discussed changing seating and parking restrictions for restaurants, although that conversation was largely tabled last year after building inspector Tim Platt noted if all restaurants were allowed to use the fire code as the basis for seating, the village would need upwards of 300 new parking spaces.

“I think, in my opinion, if we were to grant a variance it would have to be for something very unique to this restaurant that differentiates it from all, if not most, of the restaurants in the village,” said board member Tim McGuire.

The application was tabled until the board’s March 18 meeting.

Methodist Church Closer to Adding Pre-K

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Much to the chagrin of two of its neighbors, the Sag Harbor Methodist Church is moving right along with plans to open its basement classroom space to Our Sons and Daughters preschool program. If all goes according to plan, the 12-student program, for children ages 3 to 7, would be housed at the church starting this September.

“We’ve heard from other property owners that there’s been a positive impact on the area because of the church,” said Diane Lavery, an attorney for the church, at a Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meetings last Thursday, April 5. “Since the church has been there, property values have increased.”

Neighor Pam Wright staunchly disagreed.

“There’s going to be more commercial traffic to the area: supplies being dropped off, trash being picked up… It’s going to [negatively] affect our property values,” she said. “This church has already affected our neighborhood.”

Wright and her neighbor Linda Velsor, who also attended last week’s meeting, expressed concern with the notion of increased traffic in the area due to an added preschool/kindergarten program on site. While Lavery explained the 13-student school doesn’t intend to grow any larger than 30 students, that didn’t sit well with Wright and Velsor, who also worried about the potential for more growth—including summer programs.

Again, Lavery attempted to quell their concern.

“The summer camp is run at the Ludlow Farm, and [Our Sons and Daughters] plans to do that in the future,” she explained. And as for the increased population at the church, Lavery further noted that the school has board meetings four times a year, bringing about four to five people in each time, as well as one monthly administrative meeting for which 10 to 12 people typically show up.

Adding to a laundry list of complaints, Velsor said she is also concerned with the level of noise during school hours when the kids go outside for recess.

“It’s a situation that we want to be aware of,” she added. “Because children at that age are not quiet when they’re outside.”

That may be true, Pastor Tom Mcleod noted, but he said the outdoor area was strategically built 8 feet below grade for that very reason: to stifle noise. In fact, the church had been considering holding its own Sunday School or pre-school programs on its grounds when the church was initially constructed. Mcleod said he was very conscious of the noise issue, and made sure the outdoor play area was constructed below grade so that it would have natural noise buffers.

“These kids would have to be having a major rock concert to be heard on Carroll Street,” he added.

Finally, Velsor expressed disappointment over the notion of increased traffic that would be brought by the new school. “I feel the increase in traffic on that road would be very hazardous to the area,” said Velsor, who lives on Carroll Street. “Cars come down faster than the speed limit, and they go racing up Carroll Street.”

However, as attorney Lavery explained, the planning board already adopted the building plan, which allowed the church to create a building with an occupancy of 200.

“We’re only talking about adding 13 additional cars to an existing 65-parishioner church,” she said. “We’re not talking about enlarging the impact.”

Board member Adam Grossman said he understood Velsor’s concerns, but added “I’m not sure what we can do to address traffic except not issue the variance.”

More importantly, he said the planning board is in support of the project. Planning Board Chair Herbert Phillips added that for this 128,000-square-foot lot—which can legally be divided into eight spaces—“to have an accessory use there really isn’t a burden.”

The ZBA is currently waiting for the final SEQRA determination to be approved by the Southampton Town Planning Board before it makes its final decision.

Before moving on to the next issue, board member David Reilly addressed the two women: “I have a feeling your parade of horribles is just not going to come to fruition,” he said.

Sand Land Owner Proposes Noise Study

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By Claire Walla

Residents living in close proximity to the Sand Land facility on Millstone Road in Noyac have been complaining for years that the sand and gravel processing site emits acrimonious noises, saying that the sounds that come from machines go beyond the bounds of what the site is zoned for.

However, according to John Tintle, who owns Wainscott Sand and Gravel Corporation, which runs the facility, these reports may not be accurate.

“The other day, I was 20 feet away from a pick-up truck and about 1,500 feet away from the crusher… I could hear the pick-up trick over the crusher,” Tintle recalled.

In fact, at last week’s Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting on January 19, Tintle pushed to take this a step further, adding an official assessment of the noise situation to the public record.

“A noise study’s never been done,” he said. “I would like to conduct one.”

This newest bit of evidence which is proposed to be added to the case involving the ongoing feud between Sand Land Corp. and those living near the site is expected to take months to complete, although the ZBA has tentatively scheduled to revisit the issue at its meeting on March 15.

The Southampton ZBA is tasked with addressing a formal appeal made by Noyac residents Joseph Phair, Margot Gilman and Amelia Doggwiler against a decision made by the Southampton Town Building Inspector, Michael Benincasa, last summer. Benincasa ruled in July that Sand Land is “pre-existing nonconforming” and thus is legally allowed to operate a sand mine complete with processing capabilities, and the storage and sale of mulch created from trees, brush, stumps and leaves processed onsite.

According to Zachary Murdoch, who is representing the plaintiffs, the Sand Land facility is currently engaged in activities that violate zoning code.

“What was determined ‘pre-existing nonconforming’ did not occur until 15 years after the upzoning,” Murdoch said.

The issue is centered in part on the town code, which was adopted in 1957. The plaintiffs argue that the Sand Land Corporation did not exist in its current form (i.e. processing mulch) prior to 1957, which would prohibit it from being “pre-existing, nonconforming.”

Lawyer David Eagan, who is representing David Tintle of Sand Land Corp., on the other hand, contends that the business did in fact exist prior to the adoption of the town code in 1957 and is thus doing nothing illegal.

In fact, Eagan further argues that because zoning laws changed again in 1972 — effectively creating a residential district in that area — there is even more evidence to bolster his position that Sand Land, in its current state, is “pre-existing nonconforming.”

“I think the very broad, broad definition of ‘mining activities’ and what was going on on the site… is a very key piece of evidence in our favor,” Eagan stated last week.

Last Thursday, Tintle said he would personally finance such a noise study, and at the request of Zoning Board member Keith Tuthill, he said the study would include assessments of the noise generated on the site from several different locations, even taking into account different wind directions.

“The other thing I’ll do for you,” Tintle added, “I’ll have them break it down by machine.”

“It’s not that noisy of an operation,” he said, adding that should neighbors have any complaints, “They can call me anytime — I’m always open with the neighbors.”

Village Sued By Denied Day Spa

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After the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied The Style Bar’s application for a parking variance on December 16, 2008, Peri and Ira Gurfein, owners of the business, decided to file an Article 78 lawsuit against the village over the ZBA’s decision. New York State Supreme Court proceedings on the case are scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 30 in Riverhead.

The Gurfeins’ variance request for six off-site parking spaces stems from an expansion the couple made to their business in 2000. At the time, a village moratorium was in place and the Gurfeins converted a portion of a second floor residential space into an accessory, commercial use of the ground floor beauty parlor business they had been operating.

However, the ZBA maintains this expansion was made without the required building permits and the Gurfeins’ certificate of occupancy doesn’t allow commercial use of the second floor space. In order to continue operating their business on the second floor, the Gurfeins require six additional parking spaces. Since on-site space at the Bay Street location is at a premium, the Gurfeins needed a variance for off-site parking.

The ZBA, however, voted against the Gurfeins’ request. The ZBA said there is already a parking shortage in the village business district and added that giving the Gurfeins a variance for six-off site spaces would worsen the situation and create an undesirable change to the neighborhood. The board added that by expanding the business without providing the necessary parking, the Gufeins significantly affected the village parking problems, since the ZBA claims the enlargement increased the business floor area by more than 100 percent. Finally, the board concluded the Gurfeins created the hardship themselves because they consciously bypassed the village approval process for their commercial expansion.

However, the Gurfeins’ lawyer, Robert Marcincuk, stated in lawsuit documents, the ZBA’s decision was “retaliatory and designed to punish the Petitioners for their business expansion/renovations without first obtaining a building permit or other necessary Village approvals.”

During an interview, Marcinuk said “We are saying [perhaps] we created the situation by expanding, but the self-created hardship alone isn’t determinative as to whether or not the zoning board of appeals should have denied granting the variance.”

Marcinuk claims the board was presented with several letters from owners of neighboring businesses, who said the Style Bar didn’t have an adverse impact on the neighborhood. He added that the expanded business has been in operation since 2000. Marcinuk said there isn’t a feasible alternative for the Gurfeins since it is impossible to create on-site parking for the business.

Marcinuk went on to state that a similar parking variance was granted to Bay Partners, LLC, for the Tutto Il Giorno Restaurant on Bay Street in February 2008. The restaurant sought to create outdoor seating during the summer, which required additional parking. The ZBA, however, found outdoor seating had been operated from the site since 1975, and thus wouldn’t be a substantial change to the neighborhood. Bay Partners was subsequently granted the variance.

In December, members of the ZBA said the Tutto Il Giorno approval wasn’t equivalent to the Style Bar application due to the different circumstances of both businesses.

Of the lawsuit, chairman of the ZBA Michael Bromberg said, “I think our board is right and [the Gurfeins] are wrong.”

 

Above: A view of the Style Bar.