The Village of Sag Harbor has proven itself to be proactive at times — adopting zoning code amendments in 2009 for its downtown and again in 2016 for residential properties. Now it is time for officials to roll up their sleeves once again and start to talk about creating a long-term infrastructure plan for Sag Harbor’s waterfront, its sidewalks and streets, its wastewater treatment plant, its parking inventory and how traffic flows through its increasingly congested streets.
Sag Harbor does have a comprehensive planning tool, developed in 2009, that specifically addresses its downtown, but it appears that document is in need of an update as the community evolves and visions of the village’s future change. A companion infrastructure management plan that explores parking, sidewalks, traffic flow, the waterfront, our volunteer emergency service buildings and public spaces — a plan created in public, with public input — would be an excellent tool. Besides offering a vision for the future, it could also provide a practical, long-term plan for repairs, and would help guide the village as it prepares to finance its needs without placing an undue burden on its tax base.
Asking residents what their vision is for the future of Sag Harbor is an ambitious question. The creation of a comprehensive infrastructure plan would be a heavy lift for a volunteer village government that already works overtime managing the day-to-day operations of the village and addressing issues as they arise. It was clear during a forum this newspaper held last week on parking and transportation that there is a desire by community members — on both sides of the debate over the philosophy of how a municipality like Sag Harbor should develop its downtown and address parking and traffic flow — for a more comprehensive vision, and certainly more public information about what the current board believes is the path forward.
Addressing a lack of parking in a piecemeal way is helpful in the short-term, but a long-term plan that looks at transportation and alternative modes of transportation would go far in addressing an issue that records show village residents have debated for several decades now.
While some of us may have backgrounds and experience in urban planning and addressing parking and traffic while preserving the feel of a quaint, historic downtown like the one found in Sag Harbor, looking to professionals for help is a wise idea. Of course, that assumes there would be room for ample input from residents and business owners, and those residents like the members of the Sag Harbor Transportation Committee who have volunteered their own free time into learning about these issues. All options should be on the table, including different parking configurations, shuttle bus services, valet parking, and yes, even the idea of requiring some paid parking. It is only when we explore together what these options could accomplish and look at the successes and pitfalls of similar programs in similar communities that we can understand what the right fit for our village is.
As New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. noted, for a village like Sag Harbor, comprehensive planning could likely end with state funding in the form of grants for specific projects laid out as part of an overall vision for the community. It may also give residents a sense they can be a part of the change that is occurring in Sag Harbor, rather than helpless bystanders watching a place they once knew evolve in ways they never expected, and never planned for.