Developer Offers To Buy Church For Village

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Would the Village of Sag Harbor be interested in having the site of the former United Methodist Church purchased for a community center or enjoy a newly constructed Bay Street Theatre — all at no cost to taxpayers in the village?

If so, Michael Maidan’s project manager for the approved condo project at 21 West Water Street and the proposed condo project at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road wants village residents to know this is a possibility. Maidan’s concept, he notes, is a way to show them he is not just here to make money and walk away.

On Tuesday, July 22 project manager Mark D’Andrea introduced himself to the Sag Harbor planning board and presented this concept. D’Andrea noted he took the reins on both the approved 20-unit condo West Water Street project, as well as the controversial 18-unit condo project proposed at the former Diner property in June. That project weighs in at over 50,000 square feet and includes accessory boat slips with each unit. On Tuesday, D’Andrea said it is his hope to illicit as much village input as possible for the latter development, particularly when it comes to the aesthetics of the project.

He added the land owners, East End Ventures LLC, which is owned in part by Michael Maidan, have begun to contemplate buying and donating the Methodist Church to the village, as well as re-building the Bay Street Theatre as a community benefit.

The sale of the former United Methodist Church to former Southampton Town Councilman Dennis Suskind was met last year with opposition by some members of the Sag Harbor community, who hoped instead the Town of Southampton would purchase the parcel with the Community Preservation Fund (CPF).

Many argued the building could be used as vital community space, but as Suskind was already in contract the town did not move forward with an offer. However, early this summer, just after the closing of the sale, Suskind placed the church back on the market and a buyer has yet to surface.

Bay Street Theatre has not been without its own woes. With a lease set to expire in 2010, and discussion about a CPF purchase from both towns for the theatre space — in an effort to preserve the cultural resource — seemingly at a standstill, Bay Street Theatre’s ultimate future in Sag Harbor is still unknown.

“I feel there are certain things the landowner is willing to do … I want to make sure my authority in this capacity is 100 percent,” D’Andrea said on Tuesday, noting he has within his complete control the ability to bring these things to fruition.

Village attorney Anthony Tohill stopped the conversation, noting the discussion had no merit when it came to the site plan review of an application and should not be entertained by the board.

On Wednesday, D’Andrea confirmed East End Venture’s desire to “give back” to the village.

“The landowners realize the village needs certain things,” he said. “A community center is of paramount importance.”

He added that East End Ventures has discussed using a piece of land near West Water Street to build a new theatre complete with a vintage marquee for the village.

D’Andrea added the developers have already committed to a boardwalk from Baron’s Cove Inn to the current Bay Street Theatre, as long as other property owners agree to the concept.

Maidan recently purchased Baron’s Cove Inn, confirmed D’Andrea, although the closing has not occurred.

The Ferry Road project, he noted, is currently zoned in a manner that allows for the project they are proposing, although the project is currently subject to a zoning board of appeals special exception permit. D’Andrea said his main issue right now was the aesthetics of the proposed building. Ultimately, said D’Andrea, he believes an architect from Sag Harbor will need to be hired to ensure the project is designed with village residents in mind.

“We don’t want to change Sag Harbor,” he said. “This place is too beautiful.”

As for village officials, D’Andrea said the village needs to realize they should be savvy when they have a developer willing to work with them so inclusively.

“You can’t shut the door,” he said. “You have to give us guidance.”

On Wednesday, Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris confirmed that D’Andrea set up a meeting with he and trustee Ed Deyermond prior to the planning board meeting.

“There was really nothing to talk about,” he said. “The only thing we discussed was the boardwalk, which was a part of the site plan approval for West Water Street.”

Later Ferraris said that as mayor he did feel the board of trustees had a responsibility to the residents of the village to discuss any public benefit.

“However, that benefit should not and will not compromise the review process of any project within the village,” he said. “I will consult with legal counsel to determine to what extent if at all such a discussion is proper and how to proceed. As I have stated before, although the village is in the midst of change, we as a village have the opportunity to shape the landscape of this village both in terms of development and public benefit. We should not lose sight of these opportunities.”

In other news, the planning board accepted Lead Agency status in the required State Environmental Quality Review of the Ferry Road project. After two years of discussion they also deemed the application for the 18-unit condo project complete.

“I certainly hope this process turns out to be as thorough and vigorous as the last one,” said new planning board chairman Neil Slevin, referring to the Bulova project. That project is expected to gain site plan approval at the board’s next meeting, on August 26. 

Above: Artist April Gornik’s rendering of an elevation for the proposed Ferry Road condo project based on poles the developer placed on the site to indicate the proposed size of the building. Project manager Mark D’Andrea has said the size and design of the building are still up for discussion. (Center photo) D’Andrea (center) sits with project attorney Dennis Downes (left) and a contractor working on the approved West Water Street condo project, which is owned by the same developers seeking to create condos at Ferry Road. 

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