Developer Scales Down West Water Street Condos Again

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A rendering of 2 West Water Street by architect Andre Kikoski.

A scaled-down proposal for three condominium units at 2 West Water Street, showing less square footage and more open space, emerged during last Thursday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review.

During a preliminary discussion of the project — a formal application has not yet been filed — the attorneys and designers representing the property’s owner, developer Jay Bialsky, said the revised plan takes into account several months of meetings with Sag Harbor’s regulatory boards, including requests to reduce the visual impact of the condos.

What was once a 27,740-square-foot plan for three residential units in two buildings was reduced in September to 26,077 square feet, and now has been further reduced to just below 24,000.

It has also been split into three separate buildings. Whereas a single, 11-foot-wide breezeway separating the two original units was previously planned, a second, 10-foot-wide corridor has now been added to split off the third unit.

The easternmost unit has also been set back an additional 16 feet from the street, and the third story of each unit would be structured with glass instead of built with solid walls. The height remains 44 feet, 6 inches, the same height that the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals considered in October.

Mr. Bialsky’s attorney Brian DeSesa said the changes further reduce the mass of the building, which was “this board’s concern,” he said.

The ZBA in October approved nine variances the project needed to move forward, including one for the building height and one for the third story, which zoning prohibits. Another variance was for having the three residential units that all exceed the village’s maximum apartment size of 2,500 square feet. Dimensional setback variances also were granted. The approval of the variances paved the way for the BHPAR to take up the condos.

Mr. Bialsky’s team on Thursday presented renderings showing how the buildings may look, including options in white brick, grey and black brick and reclaimed red brick. Previous versions of the building showed siding on most of the building, rather than brick.

Architect Dave Harvey said there’s more of an “historic vernacular” to the latest proposal.

“We’ve moved away from the concept of emulating Main Street,” he said. “…The first proposal was, ‘Should we continue Main Street?’ We got a lot of input from the public and other boards. We are listening.”

Zach Studenroth, the board’s historic preservation consultant, said he considered the look more “commercial, industrial.”

“They don’t look like they’re designed for comfort,” he said. “They look like they’re designed for productivity.”

Mr. Harvey replied by saying, “I think to go truly residential is a mistake.”

The board members themselves — who last saw the plans in July during a “discussion” session — offered what Mr. Bialsky’s team considered constructive feedback, Mr. DeSesa said later.

“I like it. I like the red brick, actually,” board member Bethany Deyermond said, and later added, “I love that you can see the water between the buildings and that it feels smaller.”

Board member Dean Gomolka said he, too, liked the brick version.

“I think there’s a tie to the commerce of years gone by,” he said. “I appreciate what they have put into this. The main concern is it will be interesting to know what the visual impact is coming over the bridge.”

Board alternate Judith Long said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the changes.

“I opened up the packet and thought, ‘Whoa, big improvement,’” she said.

Mr. DeSesa said by phone Tuesday that Mr. Bialsky was happy with the feedback the BHPAR gave the updated proposal.

“We viewed it as positive. This is the first time we were able to show the building he wanted to build, which is clearly a lot better than what was previously proposed,” Mr. DeSesa said. “We’re going to work on further refining and developing that plan they saw into a full application, which will go for a public hearing.”

The Sag Harbor Planning Board recently closed a public hearing on a lot line modification that, if approved, would adjust the size of the 2 West Water Street lot to be slightly larger — up to .69 of an acre — by taking a piece from the adjacent 1, 3, 5 Ferry Road property, and would merge the Ferry Road parcels into a single tax map lot.

A decision on the lot line modification is anticipated soon. It is the last step in the Community Preservation Fund purchase contract between Mr. Bialsky and Southampton Town for the town’s purchase of the Ferry Road property, which would pave the way for the creation of the much-talked-about John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.

The Planning Board has also held open a public hearing on Mr. Bialsky’s site plan for 2 West Water Street, pending new schematics. The Planning Board meets next on November 27.

Board chairman Anthony Brandt said Wednesday the project is “still a much bigger project than number one, what we’re used to, and number two, bigger than what we’d generally support. We generally do not approve excessive size.”

“The alternative is not very pleasant, either,” he continued. “The park would no longer be a park, it would be development. He hasn’t really sold it yet. Everybody knows this.”

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