Tag Archive | "zoning code"

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.

Zoning Code Talk Focuses on Waterfront

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Despite roughly 40 people in attendance at what was anticipated to be the last public hearing on Sag Harbor’s new zoning code, Thursday’s meeting proved uneventful, with a third round of debates on the effect the code will have on current waterfront businesses at the forefront of the discussion.

James McCrosson, commodore of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, began the discussion by reading a statement from the yacht club’s board of directors. The statement reiterated the club’s position that changing zoning on the waterfront for marinas, yacht clubs and boat yards from permitted uses to special exception uses goes against the village’s own Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).

“In fact, the Harbor Committee could not find it consistent [with the LWRP] after hearing all the facts,” said McCrosson.

At an April 13 Harbor Committee meeting, the advisory panel was unable to reach consensus on whether to support the code, although committee members Jeff Peters and Brian Halweil were not in attendance. Chairman Bruce Tait voiced support for the zoning code, but was unable to convince Dr. Tom Halton or Nancy Haynes, who manages a marina. By law, the committee was unable to vote on consistency with the LWRP until the public hearing process on the code has ended.

McCrosson also asked for an economic impact study on not just the ramifications of the code on the waterfront, but also on the business district.

At the request of trustee Tiffany Scarlato, village attorney Anthony Tohill explained to McCrosson that special exception use is by law a permitted use, and that while special exception uses do need to meet specific criteria laid out in the new code, if an applicant meets those standards a village board does not have the power to deny an approval.

“Once those conditions are satisfied, the board cannot deny the application,” he explained, adding the reason marinas, boat yards and yacht clubs were defined as special exception in the new code is because Sag Harbor’s waterfront is a “sensitive area.”

“It’s not as bad as you think,” said Tohill.

On top of that, all current businesses would be considered pre-existing, non-conforming should the code be adopted and therefore would be able to operate as they have and even change hands without repercussions. Only if the business owners wished to change the use on their properties or seek additional uses, like the creation of a restaurant, would they fall under the proposed zoning code.

“You are not going to be held to the standards of special exception,” said Scarlato, adding an expansion would require site plan approval under the new code, but the existing code already mandates the same thing.

Sag Harbor Yacht Yard owner Lou Grignon wondered if the code offers no disadvantage to the current marina, yacht club and boat yard owners, what is the benefit for the village changing the zoning in the new code.

While the village wants to protect what exists on the waterfront, said village planner Rich Warren, there are parcels available for reuse that need to be protected.

“Your waterfront is special property in the village and you want to take special care with it,” he said, adding the change does not effect current businesses, but will enable the village to take “a closer look” at new construction and uses on Sag Harbor’s waterfront.

Grignon also asked for accessory apartments to be made legal for businesses on the waterfront, as to provide employee housing and even security.

While the village does have a plan to legalize some accessory apartments in the village code, it does so for apartments that are attached to primary residences. A majority of the current accessory structures in the village that could provide an affordable housing solution for many homeowners, noted Stacy Pennebaker are detached and she urged the board to consider opening up its allowances for accessory apartments in Sag Harbor.

“Legalize them,” she said. “Bring them up to code.”

Resident Susan Sprott agreed with Pennebaker, adding area businesses, including the Bay Street Theatre, could take advantage of affordable housing in Sag Harbor. Sprott added there are many seniors who could benefit from renting out the space.

“We don’t have any more land, but we do have houses and we do have cottages behind houses,” said Sprott.

The board will meet again to discuss the zoning code and receive a draft environmental impact statement on the legislation on May 15 at 5 p.m. 

Moving Forward

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Two years ago Mayor Greg Ferraris and Trustee Tiffany Scarlato set out to re-draft what no one can deny is an antiquated zoning code no longer able to adequately address the development of Sag Harbor. Once a sleepy, waterfront cousin to the tony Southampton and ritzy East Hampton, Sag Harbor was the “un-Hampton,” a place full of local families where a Five and Dime still exists and where Main Street is lined with merchants who actually work in their stores.

The reality is in the last two years Sag Harbor has begun to change. Less the blue collar village it once was, Sag Harbor has become very much the focus of residential and commercial development in the last several years and frankly a zoning code from 1984 could no longer handle the needs of our community, whether we like it or not. We endorse the efforts of the village to try and control, to a certain extent, what is clearly the most vibrant village on the East End.

To say we were a little concerned in the beginning is an understatement. The Express has always maintained that we do not want to see a village frozen in time, a Disneyland version of Sag Harbor for generations to come. That being said, over the course of the last two years we have watched as the trustees, village planner Richard Warren and village attorney Anthony Tohill have drafted a code that comes very close to addressing some of our concerns over the possible overdevelopment of the village, the lack of affordable housing and the preservation of our historic character without asking commercial property owners to forfeit their rights.

While we are certain not every individual or business owner will be happy with the end product before us now, we do feel the village has gone a long way in finding a balance between the wants of a populace afraid of losing the character of its beloved village and a business community afraid of being disenfranchised. Ultimately a zoning code is legislation created for the protection of the whole village, and all its residents, not for the special interests of a few. We feel the village has accomplished just that.

We are also poised to become one of the first municipalities on the East End to adopt inclusionary zoning provisions into our zoning code. The preservation of the very people who have created this wonderful village is just as important as the preservation of its visual character and we are pleased to see that was not lost on this administration.

For those coming to this process late, we are sorry they did not follow the code’s evolution more closely over the last two years for what they would have witnessed was a give and take with many concessions on all sides offered with the goal of an end result many of us can get behind. We endorse the adoption of the proposed code as is, and urge the trustees to move forward with that action.

This said, one very real concern we have is ensuring better communication is forged between the village boards, the village planners, attorneys and the building department. The building department is the gateway for many residents and business owners attempting to learn the new code and needs to be well versed in the proposed code, helpful and positive about this new legislation once it is adopted. We would suggest trustees hold several training sessions for the department, as well as the village boards, to hammer this point home.

 

 

 

 

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

 

FAQ: The New Village Code Explained

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The new village zoning code has undergone several revisions since it was first made public in the spring of 2008. However, the intent of the code has remained the same. The code aims to preserve the historic feel of the village and also codify a process for building applications for the building inspector and village boards.

In recent months, this document has come under fire during a series of public forums and hearings conducted by the village board of trustees. The code has subsequently been revised based on the public comments generated at these sessions.

The four major revisions to the code so far concerned second floor usage, the limitations of the Architectural Review Board’s jurisdiction, changes in Certificate of Occupancy policy and day care center and bed and breakfast neighbor notification within 500 feet. A revised version of the code has yet to be printed for the public. Following the public hearing on Friday, February 13, the village will print an amended edition of the code.

Although it is difficult to synthesize a 273-page legal document, the Express tried to explain some of the more confusing elements of the proposed new code. The public hearing will be held at 5:00 p.m. in the Municipal Building. All interested citizens are invited to attend.

 

1) What are permitted second floor uses in the Village Business District?

This section of the code was recently revised. In the original version of the proposed code, an office was allowed to operate on the second floor only if it was an accessory office to the ground floor business. Retail use on the second floor, however, was allowed in the first edition of the new code.

A second floor space, above the ground floor business, in the village business district may be used for residential, office or retail purposes – under the new village zoning code. However, when a second floor use changes, a new certificate of occupancy must be granted by the building department.

For example, The Express owns an apartment above our ground floor office. This space may be leased to a business, for example a non-profit organization. After this organization’s lease had expired, The Express could later rent out the space to an art gallery.

Certain cases, like a conversion from an apartment to an office or retail store, might trigger a site plan review before the planning board as the changes in use might increase the need for parking and sewage.

    

2) Under the new zoning code, does the Architectural Review Board have the ability to judge interior alterations in retail spaces?

The ARB does have the ability to judge interior alterations if these alterations are visible from the street. These alterations would have to be deemed architecturally incongruous, by the ARB, with the historical character of the village.

The ARB cannot, however, judge the merchandise found in the store, even if these items are visible from the street.

For example, if there was a painting of a nude in a storefront, the ARB would not have the jurisdiction to have this piece of merchandise removed from the storefront. But, if this same store had a built-in display case, painted in a bright orange, and the display case was visible from the street, the ARB could have this removed or altered.

Normally, this type of code enforcement is driven by resident complaints to the building inspector. The building inspector would then notify the store and ask them to receive ARB approval for the display.

 

3) Does the ARB have any jurisdiction over the type of use in a space?

According the village, the ARB has no jurisdiction over approving or denying a use. The ARB’s jurisdiction is limited to the exterior architectural structure of the building, and the interior structures that are visible from the street. An application, calling for an expansion over 2,000 square feet or 75 feet of frontage, must be reviewed by the ARB The board would review the architectural alterations to the space, which would include signage, materials used, color schemes and design. This type of application would also be subject to site plan review. This is the same process as in the current code.

 

4) Why was the Office District created?

According to the village, their intention in creating the Office District was to maintain Main Street as a destination for pedestrian traffic. The village says additional offices on Main Street, beyond what already exists, might dampen pedestrian traffic. Offices tend to be closed in the evenings and during the weekend. Whereas retail establishments are more likely to keep later hours to service pedestrians just leaving a movie or finishing dinner at a Main Street restaurant.

When creating the Office District, the village analyzed the areas of office concentration in the village, which are mainly located on the roads surrounding Main Street. A majority of the properties in the proposed Office District already operate as offices.

On Main Street, there are nearly 18 offices currently in operation. If the new code is passed, these offices will be allowed to continue operation, and landlords would be allowed to sell or rent their office space to another office business. However, if this office space is later sold or rented to a retail business, the space could no longer be converted to an office.

For example, under the new code, Apple Bank could sell their space to HSBC Bank. But, if HSBC sold, and the location became a stationary store, it could not be used as a bank again.

 

5) Why isn’t there a fee schedule for applications?

There are many reasons why the village is unable to implement a fee schedule for outside consultants to review applications. Firstly, the village lacks the staff to specifically deal with applications and ascertain a fair and accurate fee schedule. Currently, the village must hire outside consultants for site plan reviews, whereas East Hampton and Southampton towns both have full time engineering and planning staff available. The village adds it is unfair to create a fixed fee schedule that would be applicable to both smaller and larger projects.

Say, a fixed fee schedule was set at $5,000. A smaller project, like a retail store expansion, would then have to pay $5,000, but a larger project, like a condominium development, would also pay $5,000.

All site plan review applications are sent to village planning consultant Richard Warren, who determines if the application needs further review. Almost 90% of applications require no further review, the exceptions are often larger, and more complicated, projects. Each site plan application, however, will have a pre-submission conference with village officials, most likely Warren and village attorney Anthony Tohill. During these meetings, the applicant will be given a general idea of the consultants’ hourly fees and an estimation of the amount of time the review will take.

 

6) What is the process for expanding and changing the uses of a space in the village business district?

An application for an expansion up to 3,000 square feet or a change of use to a permitted use for an existing space over 3,000 square feet, which doesn’t have an increased parking requirement, sewage demands, or gross floor area expansion, wouldn’t require a site plan review. Instead, the planning board would grant a site plan review waiver. If this type of space was changing to a special exception use, the application would be subject to a site plan and special exception review.

If the American Hotel, for example, which is over 3,000 square feet, wanted to be converted into a retail store, this change probably wouldn’t trigger a site plan review because the criteria for parking and sewage usage would decrease.

An expansion of an existing space over 3,000 square feet would require a site plan review and would be limited to an expansion no greater than 8,000 square feet. Only a grocery store, home furnishing/ décor store and hardware would be allowed to operate from this space. An expansion from 2,500 to 4,500 square feet would also be subject to these requirements.

 

7) What are some of the other major revisions to the proposed village zoning code?

When a property in the village changes ownership the Certificate of Occupancy must be updated, as is the case under the current code. Under the new village zoning code, a new owner would have 30 days after moving into the property to obtain an updated Certificate of Occupancy.

The building inspector is also required to address a Certificate of Occupancy request within 30 days, from the time it was first requested. If the building inspector fails to notify the owner after 30 days, they are given a default Certificate of Occupancy.

Another major revision to the code deals with Day Care Centers and Bed and Breakfast establishments. The neighbors within 500 feet of a proposed day care center or bed and breakfast must be notified before this business is in operation. This allows their neighbors to officially express any concerns over the business with the village. The owners of a day care center and bed and breakfast will also be required to renew their special exception permit every two years.

 

8) Under the new code, what will happen to the village parking trust fund?

The parking trust fund will be eliminated if the new zoning code is adopted. The monies that have been collected over the years will hopefully be used to create additional parking in the village.

Currently, for example, if you converted a residential second floor apartment into an exercise studio, you would need to create additional parking spaces. If you were unable to create these parking spaces on site, you would need a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and would need to pay money into the parking trust for each additional parking space. Under the new code, you would still need a variance for this additional parking, but wouldn’t be required to put money into a trust.

 

 

Keep Listening

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Based on what we heard and saw at the public hearing last Thursday night on the new Sag Harbor code, it seems the village board and some members of the business community still have a long way to go before they will see eye to eye on this piece of legislation.

Thursday’s hearing was a vast improvement over previous meetings. It opened up dialogue between the two (or three) sides. If this conversation is allowed to continue, through more hearings structured in a similar fashion, it will make for a better code and a happier community.

The meeting on Thursday proved to be a good lesson in communication. There is no shortage of misinterpretation in terms of what the code actually dictates and what it doesn’t, and what the actual implications will be for local landlords and shop owners. Certainly, there was some misunderstanding on the part of some members of the business community, but the language of law can be arcane, baffling and daunting. We believe that members of the village board made a great effort to clear up some of those misunderstandings.

Still, the conversation should be left open until those who will be most effected by the code fully understand its implications, and feel that their concerns have been taken into consideration during revisions of the code. The business community is a powerful and substantial constituency in this village, and their grievances must not be taken lightly. If more than half the businesses on Main Street believe the code is onerous, someone’s not getting the message.

That being said, the business community must also recognize that while they see this code as being restrictive, zoning is designed to be restrictive. By definition, a village zoning code creates rules, but these standards are also designed to protect. The impetus for the code revision was to protect the local diversity of Main Street businesses and we believe it goes a long way to accomplishing those goals.

There is no doubt that the code needs to be changed to better serve this need. The code of the 1980s no longer suffices in this village in the 21st century. 

We ask the village board to keep their ears open and remain flexible to meeting the needs of the segment of the community they seek to protect.

 

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.

 

More Room At The Inn?

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The owners of the Sag Harbor Inn, the Egosi family, are planning a 75-unit expansion to the West Water Street inn, a restaurant, and possibly a 20-unit moderately priced apartment building on an adjacent Long Island Avenue parcel in the near future.

On Tuesday, Nathaniel Egosi, vice president of the family business, stressed that while his family did have plans for an expansion soon, they were weighing all the other development projects in the village, including the KeySpan-National Grid remediation on Long Island Avenue, before moving forward with any plans. That being said, Egosi added timing wise they have submitted the concept to the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees because of the recent zoning revision, which as currently proposed reduces the family’s ability to expand.

“The reason we own the land, we have kept the land and we have not sold the hotel – and that is important – is we have the full intention soon to expand and continue our succession plan of passing on our business through the family.”

On Monday, during a board of trustees work session on the proposed code, Egosi approached the board, asking if they had received a submission by the family’s attorney William Esseks regarding their intentions for the future of the property. Egosi said the proposed density regulations in the draft code for the Resort/Motel district – of which his is one of a handful of properties – were substantially too low. Under the current code, said Egosi on Wednesday, his property is zoned to allow 35 units per acre. Under the proposed code, he would be limited to 15 units per acre. It is Egosi’s hope the village will consider his plan and change the zoning to 30 units per acre.

Esseks’ submission to the board included a letter from Egosi outlining their expansion plans for the Sag Harbor Inn. It proposed a 75-room addition to the inn on the 2.6 acre parcel, as well as a 20-unit multiple dwelling on an adjacent 1.5 acres. According to Egosi, a complete engineering analysis has been performed and the project would meet all setback, parking and height requirements. The 75-unit hotel will boast 125 parking spaces under Egosi’s plan, in addition to the 55 spaces the inn already has. The setback to West Water Street is over 100 feet, noted Egosi.

On the remaining three lots the family owns, which comprise 1.5 acres, the Egosi’s proposed a multiple family dwelling of 20 units with 40 parking spaces.

“The purpose of that document was to explain to the village board that the proposed zoning in the new code that the board is considering is inappropriate for the use of that land,” explained Egosi.

Under the proposed code the 15 units per acre density requirement would limit his family to 45 units, he explained, while under the current code they would be allowed to construct 85 units. The change, he said, effectively devalues the property.

“It also takes away the opportunity for more hotel space in the village,” said Egosi, noting hotels are different from the average business when it comes to the village services it requires.

“We have 55 parking spaces,” he noted. “We have more parking spaces on our property than Main Street from the launderette to Apple Bank on one side … We are the ideal setup because we bring the traffic to Main Street with people, not cars.”

Egosi added the Sag Harbor Inn is a year-round, family run business that brings customers into the village through every season – not just the summer.

He said there was no economic justification to building a hotel on the 1.5-acre parcel, and sees the multiple family dwellings a transition between a commercial and residential section of the village. Egosi said the units would be mid-range in price, not the luxury condos seen elsewhere in the village.

“What we want to do is be able to preserve the ability to do this,” said Egosi, stressing the family would only seek the expansion when the timing was right down the road, after projects like the KeySpan-National Grid remediation is completed.

Above: The Sag Harbor Inn on West Water Street. (r odell-shapiro photo)

 

 

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.