Too Big, Too Bright?

Sag Harbor gas station is target of group’s ire

Save Sag Harbor, the civic group that railed against the redesign of the old Harbor Heights gas station, which recently reopened as a modern, upgraded facility, is concerned that the new premises may not be in line with agreements made during the planning process. 

In a letter to the village board and Tom Preiato, the village building inspector, Save Sag Harbor claimed that signage, lighting, convenience store hours, and the size of the canopy over the gas pumps do not match up with the approved design.

“The station was supposed to fit in, visually and practically, as a small, country-style station, with limited hours,” the letter said. 

The gas station, which is in a residential neighborhood on Route 114, is across the street from the Eastville Community Historical Society and next to the historical St. David’s A.M.E. Zion Church and its cemetery. 

Since 2011, members of Save Sag Harbor have led a community fight to reduce the number of variances requested by the gas station. Over 800 residents, many fearing a more intensified commercial use, signed a petition against the project. After a two-year process, the village granted a single setback variance, as opposed to the original 17 requested, allowing only for a 600-square-foot convenience store to be built in the old building’s existing space, formerly used as a waiting room and office. The gas pumps were to be moved from the front of the building to the side, which has been done.

In September 2015, before construction started, the applicant, Petroleum Ventures, owned by John Leonard, sold the property to 144 Hampton Road L.L.C., for $2.5 million. Once the station reopened it did not take long for some issues to be noted. The convenience store is operating 24 hours a day, though Save Sag Harbor said its understanding was that both station and store would have limited hours. 

     Despite the village code’s prohibition of neon signs, there are four at the station. Save Sag Harbor also called the directional signs at the entrance and exit “the equivalent of road signs, rather than modest ones befitting a business in a residential and historic area.” The group also said that none of the signs, including a “We Have Diesel” sign along the street, received approval in the final site plan. 

Lighting emitted from the property is not in line with the planning board’s approval either, the letter said. “The canopy is brightly lit all night, and the light trespass and glare on the neighboring properties is obnoxious and excessive,” it said, suggesting that the lights be refitted with hooded covers that will direct the glare down. 

The canopy itself has drawn concerns over its length and width. Save Sag Harbor asked that the village inspect, measure, and confirm that the dimensions are as they were approved. 

“All relevant village boards should consider and determine whether there were any material misrepresentations involving lighting or the hours of operation made by or on behalf of Harbor Heights during the long period of approval, misleading the community in the process,” the group concluded. 

In an email to The Star yesterday, Mr. Preiato said that “as of right now I won’t be responding directly to Save Sag Harbor but I will look into their concerns. Their letter was addressed to the mayor and trustees as well, and it will be to them that I comment, should they request it.”

“The property has a C.O. and the owner has been more than responsive to all of my requests prior to the issuance of the C.O. and I might add that he wants to coexist with the neighbors peacefully,” Mr. Preiato wrote. “The only violation issued was a zoning violation for the tall flagpole, and quite frankly it is not the type of violation I would look to issue daily violations on, as my main concern is health and safety. I will await the outcome in Justice Court.”

The letter from Save Sag Harbor had called the flagpole an accessory structure that violates setbacks. It claimed there was neither an application for it nor an approval, and asked that it be ticketed weekly until remedied. 

Dennis Downes, the attorney who handled the building application for the gas station, did not return a call for comment.