Tag Archive | "zoning board of appeals"

ZBA Application Fees Up $350 in North Haven Village

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By Claire Walla

Citing net losses of nearly 30 percent over the past few years, the North Haven Village Board of Trustees have voted unanimously to raise the fee for applications before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The cost will increase from $600 to $950 — effective immediately.

“We shouldn’t be losing money,” said Village Trustee Diane Skilbred, echoing the sentiments of her fellow board members at the trustees monthly meeting on Tuesday when the vote was taken.

Village Clerk Georgia Welch explained that while applicants have historically paid to have their applications heard by the board, in recent years the number of applications has risen dramatically. Whereas the board used to hear anywhere from zero to three applications a month, since 2008 the board has typically seen around five applications.

One year Welch said the board ultimately took in $3,000 in application fees, but ended up spending $5,000 in service fees; another year applications totaled $6,000, while service fees cost $9,000. These fees include payments for a stenographer and other legal services, “because it’s a quasi-judicial board,” Welch explained. “There are avenues where court action can be taken.”

The fee will apply to all new applications going forward. Welch said all applications that are currently in the process of being heard will be unaffected by the village’s new fee.

Unsatisfactory Signage, to Some

North Haven resident Carol Ahlers isn’t pleased. In reference to a wooden sign bearing block lettering that was recently erected at the corner of a residence on Ferry Road, she wrote, “you can’t miss it, it’s ugly, it’s illuminated at night and it’s huge.”

She continued, “Can we make this sign disappear?”

Members of the North Haven Village Board said they had already contacted Village Attorney Anthony Tohill about the matter.

“It’s awfully close to the road,” said Trustee Jeff Sander.

“We suspect it’s on village property,” added Welch.

In fact, the only signs permitted in the village are nameplate or professional signs (not to exceed two square feet); real estate signs (not to exceed four square feet); and subdivision signs (not to exceed 10 square feet), for which residents are also required to obtain a building permit.

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.

Approve Demolition

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Members of the Sag Harbor Historical Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) have widely debated the guidelines for home demolition in Sag Harbor village, as a demolition project came before the board last week. This Tuesday, at the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting, the issue of demolition was again raised as local architect and ARB member, Michael Mensch, presented a demolition project to the board. Mensch appeared before the board on behalf of his clients, Susan Henriques Payne and Joseph Payne, who seek to replace their existing two-story home on Taft Place with a new two-story home with a second floor deck and an updated septic system.

“There are very good reasons to demolish this house. It is in extremely bad repair, and really cannot be saved,” said Mensch. “It was built in the late 1950s when there were no codes or regulations to be adhered to.”

Mensch went on to say that the home doesn’t meet FEMA regulations and would need to be elevated a few feet. He added that the structure has a substandard and “old-style” leaching pool, instead of an up-to-date septic system. Mensch has already secured a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permit for the project. The Harbor Committee has also already granted Mensch a wetland permit.

Mensch came before the board seeking a parking variance to allow off street parking near the front yard, instead of the rear yard as required under village code. Mensch said it would be virtually impossible to place the parking on the side or rear of the home, since Rattlesnake Creek runs alongside the rear of the house and borders Barcelona Neck Preserve.

The current structure has an existing enclosed garage, but Mensch hopes to eliminate it to “lighten up the structure and give a view past [the home] to the creek.”

He added that the new parking would be roughly the same size as the existing parking, but would be shifted slightly to the south. The asphalt for the parking spaces will also be replaced with a pervious, and more eco-friendly, material.

In the end, the board approved Mensch’s plans.

“This is about as small [of a project] as you could do with this lot,” said ZBA member Gayle Pickering. “I think you did a good job at keeping the project contained.”

The preceeding application presented by Miles Anderson, for the Amaza Lee Meredith Estate on Walker Avenue and the contract vendee Frederick Richards, for a two story family dwelling was criticized as being too large for the property. Anderson was asked to discuss reducing the size of his project with his clients and return to the next ZBA meeting in April.

Last Call For Style Bar

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For five months, the owners of the Style Bar in Sag Harbor have requested that an application for a variance to legalize a second-story commercial space be adjourned to the following meeting, all the while continuing to operate their day spa through the busy summer season and into the fall.

Following a Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Tuesday, September 16, it appears the owners of the Style Bar, Ira and Perri Gurfein, will have to “fish or cut bait,” in the words of village zoning board chairman Michael Bromberg as the board voted that this month’s adjournment would be the last they would approve on the application.

The Style Bar, which is located on Bay Street, has been operating using a second story space partially for its business. In April, the Gurfein’s sought a variance from the board to avoid the required six off-street parking spaces required by the village code as a result of the use. But at that meeting, the board was more concerned that it appeared the business expanded into the second story without a building permit. At the meeting, the Gurfeins’ attorney Robert Marcincuk explained that the building’s certificate of occupancy allows for commercial use on the first floor, with residential uses on the second. However, in 2000, he added, after receiving permission from the building owner, the Gurfeins’ expanded their commercial use onto the second floor.

At the April meeting, the board requested the application be tabled so the village building inspector and code enforcement officer could be asked about the application, and if any improvements would be required to bring the second story space up to code.

However, since that April meeting, the application has not been heard as the Gurfeins have requested adjournment each month since. While allowing the Gurfeins another adjournment, the zoning board said this would be the last stay the board would allow in this matter. Next month, the case will have to be heard or dismissed.

“I think it’s a shame this business is allowed to remain open illegally while we adjourn this application,” stated board member Kathleen Radziewicz, although both Bromberg and village attorney Anthony Tohill cautioned it was too early to determine whether the Gurfeins were in fact operating any portion of the business illegally. 

Sag Harbor ZBA Tackles Unapproved Improvements

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In an attempt to keep a blue stone patio and outdoor shower enclosure on a freestanding studio space, Pat Libutti pled his case to the zoning board of appeals for two variances that would allow the structures to legally remain on the Hampton Street parcel.

On Tuesday, August 19, the zoning board heard out Libutti, who is currently trying to sell the Hampton Street property as his family has had to move west for personal reasons, and needs an updated certificate of occupancy. Libutti needs a lot coverage variance for the blue stone patio and a side yard variance to allow for the shower, which is 1.8 feet from the lot line when the village code requires 10 feet.

According to Libutti, he applied and received a variance for construction in 2005, but made two mistakes. The patio was not shown in any of the plans and while the shower was shown on a site plan, Libutti noted it did not appear on the construction documents, which were the plans approved by the village building inspector.

“The architect represented to me it was a pretty minor thing,” said Libutti, later acknowledging that he and his family take responsibility and stand in front of the board with two accessory structures that have already been built.

 “I do appreciate your honesty in your rider,” commented board member Gayle Pickering, later adding, “We often get very creative replies to this section. It’s honestly refreshing.”

Honesty aside, board member Kathy Radziewicz noted she felt the shower’s placement so close to the lot line was “unfortunate.”

Whether or not the shower was built according to county standards was of greater concern for Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill, as Libutti said it is not connected to septic at the house, but filters through nine-feet of rocks underneath the shower and into the water table. Tohill suggested the board reach out to the building inspector to ensure this is a legal practice before granting a variance that approves it. Tohill also suggested the board take a look at all prior variances to ensure they have a grasp on what was already approved. Chairman Michael Bromberg had commented earlier that he only recalled granting a parking variance on the parcel.

The board will revisit the application at its September 16 meeting.

In other zoning board of appeals news, the board approved a lot line modification between two existing, non-conforming lots, which allowed 340 square feet of lot area to be transferred from 22 Latham Street to 20 Rogers Street. Hagen voted against another variance approved for the Rogers Street parcel, which allows for a new dwelling on that property, because he felt he did not have enough information on the septic system planned for the residence. The rest of the board voted to approve it.

Craig and Ellen Rhodes were also approved for an area variance to construct a shed at 15 Howard Street. Radziewicz voted against the approval as she felt it set a precedent for approving a variance despite that the owner could move the placement of the shed into a more conforming part of the property.