Harbor Committee Weighs In on New Code

Posted on 13 March 2009

Harbor committee meetings are usually relaxed, quiet affairs, but on Monday evening, members of the public and Sag Harbor’s planning consultant Richard Warren shared a charged conversation over the proposed new village zoning code, particularly over the zoning revisions that will be made to the waterfront district.
The committee opened the meeting with an hour-long public work session, in which Warren explained changes that would be made in the waterfront district if the proposed new village zoning code passes. According to the chairman of the committee, Bruce Tait, Warren paid particular attention to explaining permitted and special exception uses in the waterfront district.
After the work session, the meeting was open to the public and several community members, including Ted Conklin, owner of The American Hotel, and Lou Grignon, owner of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, voiced their concerns over the code.
The harbor committee had called Warren in to clarify their confusion over permitted and special exception uses. A majority of the uses in the waterfront district are deemed special exception under the proposed code. These special exception uses include boatyards, commercial fishing charters, yacht sales and charters, marinas, boat dealerships, restaurants and yacht clubs. Many of these uses are permitted under the current code.
After the meeting, Tait said re-categorizing these uses, from permitted to special exception, will help the village safeguard the harbor in the village, where there is a premium on space, and keep the uses diverse.
“With the harbor so built up, [I feel] it is appropriate for the village to make the most of special exceptions … A special exception use is still a permitted use but with special criteria [the project] has to meet,” said Tait.
“This gives the village a chance to look at each project to determine its appropriateness,” added Tait. “I don’t think the special exception will handicap any of the harbor businesses.”
Grignon, however, believes letting the board decide if a special exception business is appropriate within the waterfront district gives the board too much power. He feels marina businesses should remain permitted uses.
“My question is how come the most water-dependent uses are now being made [into special exception uses],” asked Grignon.
Grignon feels the proposed code is inconsistent with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), a planning document for Sag Harbor which protects the harbor and encourages maritime business.
“The LWRP states that the village should avoid legislation that will adversely impact [marina] businesses,” said Grignon.
Tait, however, feels the proposed zoning document and the LWRP are in accord.
“As I looked at [the new village zoning code] through the eyes of the LWRP, in general, I didn’t have a problem with it,” said Tait.
Conklin’s concerns were of a different sort. He claims the village board of trustees didn’t fully incorporate the harbor committee into the drafting process of the code as it pertains to the waterfront district. Although Tait conceded the committee could have been more involved in the process, he added that Warren frequently updated the committee on changes made to the zoning document.
According to Tait’s understanding of SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) procedure, the committee couldn’t fully weigh in on the proposed zoning code, and give it a consistency report with the LWRP, until after a final version had been drafted.
The committee, however, did manage to come up with a few suggestions for the board during Monday’s session. They suggested adding additional maritime operations into the use table, like sail storage and sail repair shops. Warren said these additional uses would likely be adopted by the board as they are in line with the village’s vision for the waterfront district. Warren added that listing art galleries as a permitted use in the new code was actually a typo, and won’t be permitted in the waterfront district.
At the close of the meeting, the committee agreed to draft a letter to the board of trustees asking for more time to further review the proposed zoning code. The committee plans to hold a special meeting in the coming weeks.

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4 Responses to “Harbor Committee Weighs In on New Code”

  1. elliot says:

    There is something here that I simply do not understand.

    The Harbor Committee wants to re zone a Boat Yard to become a “special exception”?

    Do I understand that correctly? … A Boat Yard in a HARBOR will now be considered a special exception???

    Isn’t a boat/yacht yard the ONLY business that would be perfectly natural and necessary in a harbor setting?

    Mr. Tait said that “he doesn’t think” his proposed rezoning will affect current businesses. This man is proposing major rezoning and he said that he is not sure of it’s effects on historic local business???

  2. CalebTutwiler says:

    Ted Conklin will continue to sing the same old song about not involving this or that person or committee enough on any change to any code until he is personally consulted on any and every little aspect. He’s owed as much, at least in his mind.
    It seems it’s always Ted Conklin voicing “concerns.”
    But correct me I’m wrong, this code has been the subject of numerous public hearings since it’s conception. This code has had ample opportunity to be scrutinized on every level. Who in Sag Harbor has not had opportunity to voice their concerns at this point? But this code, much to the chagrin of the most historic of historic Sag Harbor businesses (yes Ted, the American Hotel is the face of the village and will remain as such forever and ever), in my opinion is a necessary step for a village I love. Mayor Ferraris realized this, I beleive, a long time ago. But then again, I was the dissenting voice, at least in my office, on the perceived evil the arrival of a CVS in the harbor apparently represented. It’s the same evil the arrival of 7-11 represented, no?
    Things are changing – everywhere. This code acknowledges as much.

  3. david says:

    agree with Elliott. Isn’t this a little Orwellian? Will this really be an improvement? Let me think, the last time Sag committees talked something to death was the Bulova building. Finally, everything was agreed upon by committees and jurisdictions all over Long Island; and what do we have now? Nothing. A superfund site that will not be remediated; the new development will not happen. There is no demand for it; it can’t be financed. Sag Development is delinquent on their taxes. Will there be any more affordable housing as a result? Will Sag miss the $1-2 million of property taxes that would have been paid? Maybe our officials and representatives might want to focus on some of the practical challenges facing Sag Harbor….

  4. Louis Grignon says:

    I agree with Elliot and David. The big question here is “why?”. Under private ownership and dedicated to serving the public, the half dozen WATER DEPENDANT businesses that line the waterfront have, over the past 20-25 years helped to create the beaucolic Village of Sag Harbor. We can speak of the history most of them have (50 to 210years) but the point here is what is happening today. There was zero investigation into the working waterfront. No one who owns a business was asked “how could life be improved in the WF district?”. To my knowledge there has been no issues raised about problems in the WF district. My qustion is still “why are you changing something that seems to be working?” What are the facts that have brought about the decision to diminish our zoning designation, impose parking regulations that cannot be met and still be an ooperative boatyard, and re-classify certain industry accepted uses as either Special Exception or Not Permitted?
    The LWRP goes to great lenths to support the businesses of the Water Front. It took into account the importance of a healthy, vibrant and FUN place. It tied it to the VB district and Main St. It recognized the need to be flexible in an ever changing business environment and to the EXPANDING desire of the fine people of Sag Harbor and environs to be On The Water. Before the proposed zoning code is passed, I think the members of the board or the hired experts must explain to us, and the public; Why are you doing this and what is the desired effect and ultimate goal for the waterfront in your vision?

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