By Christine Sampson
David Pharaoh, commander of the American Legion Chelberg-Battle Post #388, reflected for a moment on Wednesday about the Legion’s shrinking membership in Sag Harbor — some of which he attributes to a general demographic shift among younger veterans away from the East End.
That’s why the Sag Harbor Planning Board’s approval of the American Legion’s plans to build an exhibition hall at its Bay Street post are important, Mr. Pharaoh said. He said the American Legion needs a place to display its collection of memorabilia representing those from Sag Harbor who have served in the military, even if they are no longer here.
“Nobody can afford to stay here anymore, so our veterans population is dwindling,” Mr. Pharaoh said. “We have to have something to show from our rich military history in Sag Harbor.”
The planning board on Tuesday unanimously green-lighted the American Legion’s bid for expansion, which will include a 32-by-36-foot addition to be used as exhibition space. The project will also include the construction of a storeroom that will eliminate the need for two temporary outdoor storage sheds.
“We are very happy. We want to thank the village,” Mr. Pharaoh said. “We are roaring and ready to go.”
Mr. Pharaoh said the American Legion will begin construction in September, after the busy summer season is over, so as not to conflict with the Dockside restaurant’s operations or the annual barbeque party the organization holds for its members.
Leading up to the approval on Tuesday, the planning board had raised some questions through its environmental consultant, Kathy Eiseman, who initially suggested during prior meetings that water drainage problems would need to be addressed before the board could move the application forward. Paul Gerecke, an American Legion board member, told the planning board in January that adding a drainage system to the property would have been too big a hardship for the organization to take on.
Ms. Eiseman said Wednesday she is satisfied with the outcome.
“The area that is being constructed is basically in the same area where there is already an impervious surface,” she said. “They have some plans for a rain garden that we put together for the future that they could do as a pilot project.”
In March, the planning board waived the typical public hearing on the project, and also decided to not attach any special conditions to its approval — thereby freeing the organization from any mandate to deal with the drainage issues.
“I’m actually very grateful. They’ve been great, really,” Mr. Pharaoh said Wednesday. “There’s been flooding in front of that building for years. It’s not like it’s from us. It’s just the location.”
The American Legion is located directly across the street from dockage at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, and the village’s boat ramp.
Also Tuesday, a public hearing on Greystone Development’s application to build a waterfront condominium complex was postponed to May 2. According to planning board chairman Gregory Ferraris, it was moved from April 25 because the village never advertised the public hearing in the newspaper as is required by law. If no “adverse comments from the public” need to be addressed following the public hearing, Mr. Ferraris said, it is possible Greystone’s environmental review — which has been in progress since late December — may be approved at that time.
The planning board heard from attorney Brian DeSesa on behalf of Uptown Pilates, who said his client will be submitting a new set of plans soon for an application to convert a retail space zoned for the sale of antiques or art to a nonmedical office and exercise facility at 23 Bridge Street.