Sag Harbor Planning Board Continues Review of Dow’s Plans for Former Methodist Church

Posted on 26 October 2011

According to Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, the village is close to having all the information it needs to formally review Elizabeth Dow’s proposal to move her business into the former United Methodist Church on Madison Street. Dow hopes to bring her wall covering and design studio, workshop and internship program into the former church, which is also proposed to include a retail space. The Sag Harbor Village Planning Board is leading the village’s review.

On Tuesday, October 25 the board continued to gather information on the project, and was informed by Dow’s attorney Tiffany Scarlato that many of the neighbors who appeared at last month’s meeting have met privately with the artist and businesswoman and appear pleased with the project. But one neighbor, William Monahan, who lives across the street from the property, remains concerned with the project, she said.

Last month, Monahan told the planning board he was worried about the village changing the use on the church property from residential to village business district and the impact that could have on the neighbors.

However, the change in use at the former church is an issue that has already been settled by the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, the only entity who has the authority to change zoning on a property in Sag Harbor.

Last year, the trustees adopted a resolution allowing the change in zoning. However, that change is contingent on Dow receiving approval for the re-use of the building from the planning board.

On Tuesday, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the board was swayed to change the zoning because of the low intensity nature of the business Dow has proposed at the Madison Street property, which sits directly adjacent to the existing village business district.

“If the Dow project doesn’t go forward I am sure the village board will reverse the decision to allow the change in zoning,” he said. “It was specific to her project. I can’t speak for the rest of the board, but it would be reversed and go back to one family residence zoning.”

On Tuesday night no neighbors appeared to dispute the project in front of the planning board, which focused its efforts on tying up odds and ends in the application in an effort to move it forward.

Within the building, Dow hopes to convert a ground floor into a 2,317 square-foot shop of custom wall coverings. Her work is on display at the Smithsonian and part of the décor in The White House, and her firm’s internship program is rated as one of the best in the United States. Dow will also create a 279-square-foot storage area, a 847 square-foot office space, a 2,988 square-foot retail display studio with a 890 square-foot interior design studio in the mezzanine. A 1,423 square-foot apartment, which has been scaled back with a smaller rear balcony than originally planned, will be housed in the rear of the building.

According to Warren, those square-footages are consistent with the village’s code, although he asked village attorney Denise Schoen to review them with the building inspector before the planning board moves forward. Parking, added Warren, is also not an issue as the grandfathered parking on the church grounds more than exceeds what Dow would need to run her business.

Warren estimates the grandfathered parking at the site, which predates parking requirements in the village, comes in at between 97 and 114 spaces, depending on how one calculates what the church property had as of right. Dow’s proposal, he said, calls for 34 spaces under the village code, 13 of which she has proposed providing in the existing parking lot.

If the village approves Dow’s plans, the 97 grandfathered spaces would cease to run with the property and it would then be considered to have 34 parking spaces as of right.

The board will continue its review at its November 22 meeting.

Danny Cheng hopes to open a frozen yogurt shop at the retail space next to the former Cigar Bar in the Main Street building coined Fort Apache by local residents.

Provided Cheng can gain Suffolk County Health Department approval, it appears he will be able to move forward with his plans with the planning board seeming amenable to waiving site plan review for his business.

On Tuesday night, board member Greg Ferraris said his only concern was ensuring garbage was being carefully monitored by Cheng, noting that other ice cream parlors in the village tend to have garbage cans outside their establishments literally overflowing with cups, spoons and the like.

The board asked Cheng to come back at next month’s meeting with a plan for how to deal with garbage.

After the meeting, Cheng said he has yet to name his frozen yogurt business, which will offer a variety of fresh fruit toppings. He hopes to open in April.

Lastly, the board began its review of plans by SGI Marinas to reconfigure their docks on West Water Street. According to Warren, the plan does show an increase in dockage, but is not specific to how many more slips the marina will hold.

He added the marina will need to increase parking on-site for any additional slips.

Warren asked the marina’s attorney, Tiffany Scarlato, to come back next month with a comprehensive analysis of what is being proposed on the site, including charts showing how boats will circulate throughout the marina and a parking plan.

“They are asking for what they call a minor alteration to the docks,” said Ferraris. “It is extremely misleading. They are looking to expand 50-feet in one director and 90-feet in the other direction.”

He added that while the marina only plans on adding a few more slips, that proposal includes a new 90-foot slip.

“I think both the Harbor Committee and the Planning Board will have a heavy hand in this review,” he said.

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