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.