American Legion Pitches Expansion to Planning Board

The American Legion building on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller photo
The American Legion building on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller photo

By Christine Sampson

The Sag Harbor American Legion Chelberg-Battle Post #388 has run out of space to display its collection of military memorabilia representing veterans from Sag Harbor, but when its representatives appeared before the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board on January 24 to pitch an expansion plan, they hit a roadblock.

Kathy Eiseman, a consultant to the Planning Board with the firm Nelson, Pope and Voorhis, said rainwater drainage on the property likely needs to be addressed before a new construction project can proceed.

“The parking lot now has no drainage and it does contribute to the drainage issues in the area,” Ms. Eiseman said during the meeting. “It’s not as major as the actual roadways … but it does have some impact on the area, so a look at improving the drainage situation, possibly through directing some of the flow to a rain garden, might be something to consider. That might be an option instead of ripping up the parking lot and adding drainage.”

Paul Gerecke, an American Legion board member who was present at the board meeting, spoke up to say that “if we had to put in specific drainage, that would be a heavy burden on the legion.”

The American Legion’s expansion plan calls for a 32-by36-foot addition built in such a way that it would square off the building in the back. It is being called an “educational space” with a storage room and a small porch in the back. During the meeting, architect Jim Laspesa described its appearance as mimicking the look of the front of the building.

“We’re reusing the glass block, which is already there,” he said. “It’s a very clean looking addition.”

American Legion commander David Pharaoh said by phone on Monday that while the Legion “can’t call it a museum,” the space is intended to house “artifacts that we have accumulated over the years.”

“It was all cramped into the meeting room, and we had no storage,” he said. “Now we’re building a room just for that and a room for storage.”

Mr. Pharaoh said the space is badly needed because when the Legion completed a renovation of the meeting room last year, the previous storage room was used to build a kitchen and an office, leaving the organization without any indoor storage space. The two existing storage sheds on the property will be removed to make room for the expansion.

“We’re not trying to cram something onto the property,” Mr. Pharaoh said. “I know [the Planning Board] is doing their job. I understand that, but we’re not trying to do something crazy. We’re just adding a room, which makes sense. If we can get this approved it will make life a heck of a lot easier down there.”

During the January 24 meeting, Planning Board chairman Gregory Ferraris suggested working with the village and its public works department “to see if there’s any way we can deal with the runoff issue. The Board of Trustees has made an effort to develop this [water quality improvement] plan. Anything we can do to comply with that aspect of it is going to be helpful.”

The Planning Board ultimately tabled action on the American Legion’s application until the February 28 meeting, and referred the project to the Harbor Committee for an advisory report.