Division Street Proposal Deemed Too Intense by Planning Board

51 Division Street in Sag Harbor. Kathryn G. Menu photo

A preliminary application by Village Backstreet Realty, LLC at 51 Division Street for a change of use to turn a garage and single-family home into office spaces raised red flags on Tuesday for some members of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board, who noted the property is already home to a number of uses and has limited parking.

Board chairperson Kay Lawson and Planning Board attorney Denise Schoen said that it may be time to suggest to the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees that it look at changes to its zoning code to limit the number of uses on any one property and, given the development pressure in Sag Harbor Village, perhaps consider a comprehensive plan update.

The board opened its work session on Tuesday with a discussion about 51 Division Street, a property that currently hosts a two-story, single-family residence and a commercial building holding a number of different storefronts including The UPS Store, Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee, the Sag Harbor Baking Company and Taylor Rose Berry’s newest store, Berry & Co. The property also has a 590-square-foot garage at the rear of the property, facing Rector Street. The preliminary application to the Planning Board asked for a change of use for the existing residence and the existing garage into office space. The property is located in the village’s office district and is situated on a quarter of an acre.

According to planner Kathryn Eiseman, with Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, the change of use request would convert the single-family residence into two office spaces and the garage into a third office space.

“My feeling is this property and its use is pretty much maxed out,” said Ms. Lawson. “And then on top of that to change the house to office requires four more parking spaces on a property that is already very intensely used. My thought is it is a non-starter to change anything on this property unless it is going to become a less intense use.”

“We are all familiar with this property,” said board member Neil Slevin. “We knew it was a stretch. There is no way I could vote on a proposal I am morally certain will create a more intense use than what is already there.”

Ms. Schoen noted the Village of Sag Harbor, unlike neighboring villages in East Hampton and Southampton, does not place a limit on the number of commercial uses on a single lot. “We seem to be getting proposals where the number of uses exceed what the properties can stand … [The Planning Board’s] main goal is to make sure these properties operate effectively and safely, and overdevelopment is not consistent with that goal.”

“It is not just what an applicant wants on a property and what they desire but what we can stand as a community,” she added. “There is only so much activity you can put on one lot.”

Ms. Schoen told board members they might consider recommending to the Village Board of Trustees that it limit the number of uses one can have on a single site as a way of managing the intensification of use found in some recent applications. In East Hampton Village, Ms. Schoen said, if a property owner wants more than two uses on a single lot they must apply for a special permit and meet a minimum amount of square footage.

Ms. Lawson said the way things are changing in the village, it may be time to look at planning and development through a comprehensive plan, rather than just responding to individual applications.

“In the past, the chairmen of the various boards kept a hit list of things they would like to see changed in the code,” said Mr. Slevin. “This clearly would be a good one.”

Ms. Schoen and Ms. Eiseman suggested the board furnish the applicant with its meeting minutes to give them a sense of its concerns. From there, the applicant can amend its application or withdraw its application or ask the board to review it as it is currently presented, despite its concerns.

In other Planning Board news, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center was granted approval for its amended site plan application for a third-floor expansion of 1,216 square feet for additional office space and a “virtual reality” space including a 520 square foot outdoor terrace in the rear of the building. The application has been pending before the board due to a discrepancy between plans approved by the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals and plans submitted to the Planning Board. According to Ms. Schoen, the plans before the board Tuesday night are consistent and allowed the board to move forward with its approval.

The Planning Board also adopted a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act for VACS Enterprises, LLC, the limited liability corporation formed by Diane and Gabe Schiavoni, for a proposal to redevelop 31 Long Island Avenue with a two-story building containing four retail spaces on the first floor and four second-floor office spaces.

The property — once a part of a Superfund site — previously held a building with five retail stores and was demolished in 2008 as a part of a cleanup effort on neighboring land that once housed a KeySpan manufactured gas plant.

According to Ms. Eiseman, the Schiavonis are addressing concerns over the removal of as many as six on-street parking spaces — a concern for the board — in its revised plans.