Development Continues in SANS as Historic Designation Decision Looms

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A rendering of the proposed house at 39 Meredith Avenue by Eastward Ventures LLC in the Azurest neighborhood. Courtesy Sag Harbor Building Department

Three communities in flux will learn Thursday, March 21, whether they will receive recognition on the New York State Register of Historic Places.

Known collectively as SANS, the Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah subdivisions have pushed over the last few years for such recognition through self-funded surveys and the collection of data and historical records. If SANS receives landmark status through New York State’s Historic Preservation Office, National Register designation could soon follow.

“I’m really excited,” said Renee Simons, a Sag Harbor Hills resident who has led the effort. “We’re holding our breath and waiting. I understand a lot of great people put in letters of support, so we’ll see where it goes.”

For the last several years, the SANS communities have felt pressure from out-of-town developers who have scooped up properties to either renovate or knock down and rebuild. House flipping as well as Airbnb rentals have started to erode what was once a tight-knit community, residents say.

But not everyone who’s building these days is from out of town.

“I got to meet my next-door neighbor here,” said Azurest resident Stephen Kelly at last Thursday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review.

He lives on Meredith Avenue — a street where three adjacent houses went before the review board last Thursday. While the board asked Mr. Kelly to return with more specific details on the in-ground pool, fencing and landscaping he proposed for his property, the board did approve the construction of Michael Brosnan’s brand-new, 2,200-square-foot house next door.

The board also tabled a Meredith Avenue house belonging to Eastward Ventures LLC, which requested additions to the first and second floors and other changes. A representative of Eastward Ventures, James Bennett, said they had been issued a code violation for allegedly having cleared too much vegetation off the property, and are due in Sag Harbor Village Justice Court next week.

A fourth Azurest property, destined for a new house built by George Spadoro at 47 Terry Drive, was approved. It was a controversial project when it was before the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals last year, but passed through the review board’s hands fairly smoothly.

A Sag Harbor Hills property belonging to longtime resident Olivia White was on the agenda for an enclosure of an existing porch and the creation of a new porch, plus changes to retaining walls and new plantings. It was unanimously approved.

The Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals looked at two more SANS houses on Tuesday, including one involving the potential legalization of off-plan construction that already occurred at 8 Wilson Place. Some in the communities say the pace of development may actually be slowing down somewhat, while others say it’s still bustling.

“We stay on top of all of this,” said Gwendolyn Hankin, the secretary of the Ninevah Beach Homeowners Association. “It seems like the development has slowed down because [investors] bought something like 20 properties and they haven’t sold one yet.”

Searches of real estate listings yield at least 10 currently for sale in SANS, ranging from $950,000 for a two-bedroom cottage to $11,995,000 for a seven-bedroom house, both in Sag Harbor Hills.

Dr. Aloysius Cuyjet, president of the Sag Harbor Hills Improvement Association, said there’s a mix of renovation and new builds happening from a combination of new and longtime residents. What he said has been most disruptive, however, is the proliferation of Airbnb rentals.

“The overall impact has been to disrupt the sense of community, which was the keystone of the three communities since the early 1940s, and that’s what people are upset about,” he said.

Steve Williams, president of the Azurest Property Owners Association, said Sag Harbor seems to be “more adamant” about regulating development in the historic district but “less committed to other parts” of the village.

He predicted development by outside investors will start to slow down because the real estate market is flush with inventory.

“Carrying a house for a while becomes expensive,” Mr. Williams said. “You might even see some of these things get bank actions on them because people were too optimistic. I think we’ve passed the pinnacle.”

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