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Sag's Waterfront Building Moratorium Ends

Thu, 01/13/2022 - 10:03

Building along the Sag Harbor waterfront can begin again, now with a new code in place.

“We accomplished some good work here tonight,” Mayor James Larocca said at Tuesday’s Sag Harbor Village Board meeting. “This work began under Mayor Mulcahy. We were able to advance it to this conclusion. I think we’re on the threshold of a very important next step, and that’s making it work.”

In a unanimous vote, the board adopted two new resolutions, one ending the moratorium and the other creating a new waterfront zoning overlay district.

“I was told this would be done in three months,” said Deputy Mayor Thomas Gardella in making the motion to approve the creation of the new zoning district. “It’s been a year and a half. We’ve had a lot of input, a lot of hard work.”

Aidan Cornish seconded the motion, saying the new law was “not perfect, and never will be,” but that it “goes a long way toward protecting the future of the village.”

Bob Plumb, another board member, voted for the new zoning district, but only after receiving assurances that the board would vote later in the meeting to approve “further study” of the district.

The building moratorium was enacted in August 2020 to give the village time to study and get ahead of development that could adversely affect the character of Sag Harbor. Since then, a vision of the waterfront was laid out, the old code was reviewed, and, finally, revisions to the waterfront code were suggested. This all happened against the backdrop of a pandemic that led to a real estate boom, which accelerated concerns about drastic redevelopment.

The new overlay district breaks downtown Sag Harbor into several zoning districts: the waterfront, office, village business, resort motel, parks and recreation, and residential. Each district has different rules that apply to the types and sizes of buildings that can exist within it.

Immediately after the vote, as Mr. Plumb had asked, the board voted to authorize a planning study to consider potential code amendments voiced over the last few months, many by members of Save Sag Harbor.

The code, said Mayor Larocca, “is subject to continuous, eternal, fine-tuning, changing, amending, updating, revising. It’s a living document.” The village, he said, amends the code from time to time as needed. “What we propose to do in the next phase of work is, have a collateral process . . . that treats these issues . . . people are advocating on.”

Not everyone was impressed by the new district. “What you’re proposing is allowing a huge truck to be driven through the zoning code,” said David Berridge, an architect who splits his time between Sag Harbor and Manhattan. “I spend a lot of time trying to work around the rules . . . and you will rue the day if you do not study what the height of a finished building will be.”

Liz Vail, the village attorney, explained that the board had just resolved to authorize the planning consultants Nelson, Pope, and Voorhis to study the potential impacts of any amendment, including lowering the height of buildings in the business-zoned districts on the south side of Bay Street and Long Island Avenue.

Other potential amendments the consultants would study, she said, include increased retail uses in the office district; limiting the size of commercial uses in the office district to 2,000 square feet, allowing offices of 600 square feet in the office district, and exempting single-family residences from the waterfront overlay district standards.

“I’m sorry we disappointed some,” Mayor Larocca concluded. “It’s inevitable in a complicated process like this. I think the net effect of what we’ve done will be very positive in protecting this village that we are all devoted to.”

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