“I have a gut feeling this just shouldn’t have a swimming pool on it,” declared Mary Ann Eddy, chair of Sag Harbor’s Harbor Committee, speaking on Monday during a marathon meeting of the committee.
She was referring to a for-sale property at 36 Fordham Street overlooking Ligonee Creek where the owner wants to put in a pool within the required wetlands setback in the backyard.
The four-and-a-half-hour meeting, the longest in memory for the panel, featured two other applications that call for a pool within the required 75-foot setback; and it included continuing review — some of it acrimonious — of developer Jay Bialsky’s proposed waterfront condo project at 2 West Water Street, which is also pending before the Planning Board and the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation.
Peppered by a critic in the audience from the organization Save Sag Harbor, Mr. Bialsky made an impassioned declaration that, as an expert builder and developer, he knew what he was doing and would meet all codes and requirements to protect the environment as he proceeded with the project.
His architect, David Harvey, unveiled for the first time at the session a 3-D model of the project showing the latest incarnation of “Building 3,” the closest one to the water, which has been scaled back because of resistance among Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board members to the building’s mass. Mr. Bialsky’s attorney Brian DeSesa said its height had been cut by five feet and its third-floor area cut by one-third, significantly reducing the building’s mass but not its footprint.
Ms. Eddy’s declaration of opposition to the pool at 36 Fordham, which is cited 55 feet from wetlands — came before a new surge of opposition to the application. Joining attorney Jeff Bragman in calling the pool a threat to the creek and the Long Pond Greenbelt, to which it connects at Long Pond, were Dai Dayton of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt; environmentalist and former East Hampton Natural Resources director Larry Penny; village environmental activist and historian Jean Held of the Friends of Havens Beach; and Kevin McAllister of Defend H2O.
Another board member, Will Sharp, complained that the proposed drywell system intended to contain overflow from the proposed saltwater pool was “inadequate to what happens with a swimming pool” during maintenance, cleaning and downpours, even though the system conforms to village code requirements.
Attorney Brian DeSesa, representing the applicant, an LLC — with Bruce Bronster listed as its contact —responded to the mounting opposition by offering to accept as a condition of approval a requirement for an “I/A” nitrogen-reducing septic system.
But with mixed signals from board members Herbert Sambol and John Parker — and some pushback from the committee’s environmental consultant, who on February 8 filed a memo recommending that the committee grant the permit — Ms. Eddy did not call for a vote on the application. Despite Mr. DeSesa’s call to close the hearing, the board voted in favor of her motion to keep it open to the panel’s March 11 meeting.
2 West Water Street
While the size and mass of the 2 West Water Street proposal have been the main issues before the Planning Board and the Architectural Review Board, the Harbor Committee’s review has focused on Mr. Bialsky’s plans to remove concrete rubble that was dumped illegally over the years along some of the waterfront; extend a bulkhead from 100 to 235 feet; install stone rip rap in front of the bulkhead, and build a dock for up to six boats, with Mr. Sharp asking why the bulkhead has to be extended after the concrete rubble is removed.
After a long rather informal discussion among audience, committee members and the developer’s representatives, the committee voted to close the hearing but allow written submissions for two weeks. The project requires a wetlands permit because it is within 150 feet of the shoreline.
“How do you get to replace garbage with garbage,” Mr. Sharp asked. “From an environmental point of view, we would never be allowed to put a bulkhead there. Why can’t you just let the beach re-emerge?” Members of the audience asked the same question.
Mr. Bialsky’s attorney, Brian DeSesa, said there was not enough area on the site plan. As explained by the panel’s attorney, Denise Schoen, there is not enough room to allow for a sloped, natural beach, which would take up too much space to allow for upland infrastructure. He noted that the shorefront has been littered there with concrete rubble for decades following its use as the landing for an earlier bridge to North Haven and for a railroad depot. “Sand has re-gathered there but it wasn’t a sandy beach,” he said.
Architect David Harvey, responding to audience questions about the bulkheading and public access issues, said that proposed Buildings One and Two of the project will cover the same width east-to-west along West Water Street as the converted motel now on the site but will extend 15 feet deeper on the landward side. The existing building, Ms. Schoen noted, is “actually closer to the wetlands than the proposed” structures will be.
The proposed structures will be six feet taller than the existing former motel, not including its cupola, but that height includes the third-floor glass pavilions that will be set back above the second floor ridge line.
Criticism and commentary from audience members Jayne Young and Barbara Roberts of the organization Save Sag Harbor during the presentation prompted Mr. Bialsky to step forward from the audience and mingle with board and audience members as they studied the revised 3-D model of his proposal.
Responding to Ms. Roberts’ and Miss Young’s concerns walkways, underground parking, toxic impacts of the demolition process for the former motel on the site, and other issues — some not directly relevant to the committee — Mr. Bialsky said he’s been a developer in the area for 25 years “and I think my reputation speaks for itself … people in the know me in this community for 25 years know that I do things correct. I hear your concerns. Every time I’m at a board meeting,” whether it’s the zoning, planning, architectural review boards or the Harbor Committee, “I have listened, and I’ve done. On the record, I will be the builder of these buildings and it will all be done to New York State code, government code, whatever the building inspector wants that will be done.”
Board member Will Sharp later commented that “there’s a tremendous amount of information” on the application and “the developer has risen to the task of communicating with the audience and the board.” Referring to the 3D model and other information the developer’s team has provided, Mr. Sharp commented, “I think this project is an example of what the village should see in the future.”
He later clarified, “I was only referring to the graphic and 3D aspects of the project, not the merits of the design. For the record, I have reservations about the scale of the project and am sorry that there was no consideration for mixed use ie, retail and residential.”