Harbor Committee: Formal OK for Havens Beach Runoff and Filter Project

The Harbor Committee meeting on Monday, July 8. Peter Boody photo

Like the Sag Harbor Village Board under the new regime of Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, the Harbor Committee of Sag Harbor opened its regular monthly meeting on Monday, July 8, with a public comment period, a new feature of its agenda.

Fours speakers talked about Havens Beach, the board’s status as an advisory panel, and conditioning approvals to make sure construction does not harm hibernating or nesting terrapins.

The board formalized the unanimous vote it took last month to support a long-pending village plan as a short-term solution to pollution at Havens Beach and flooding on Hempstead Street by boosting the overflow capacity of the runoff filtration system at Havens Beach and creating easier access to the filtration sponges it contains so they can be serviced.

The board reiterated that decision by voting 5-0 to accept the draft “consistency review” prepared on the basis of last month’s discussion and decision by its environmental consultant, Charles Voorhis, finding that the project is consistent with the goals of the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.

The committee had been expected to make history Monday by formalizing its 4-1 vote last month to ask Mr. Voorhis to prepare a decision denying a wetlands permit for a pool at 36 Fordham Street near wetlands at Ligonee Brook — the first time in memory that the panel has voted to reject a wetlands permit application outright.

Mr. Voorhis prepared the decision, which the committee must approve to make it official, but the panel tabled the case until its August 12 meeting at the request of its attorney Denise Schoen, who said she had not yet had time to review it. She said the applicant’s attorney, Brian DeSesa, had acquiesced to the delay.

The 36 Fordham case was the only one that did not result in approval or a vote for  approval during the board’s agenda for August. The committee formally granted, or asked Mr. Voorhis to write decisions to grant next month, eight applications for wetlands permits, several for residential construction on the waterfront including pools.

A notable exception was the application of George Spadoro for 47 Terry Drive, which has been pending before the panel for years and which the committee agreed to grant last month after Mr. Spadoro gave up plans for a pool on the property.

On Monday, the board voted to accept Mr. Voorhis’s draft decision granting a permit for Mr. Spadoro to demolish an existing 933-square-foot single-family house on the property and build a house with a 1,197-square-foot footprint with 336 square feet of decking, 198 square feet of related stairs, a 162-square-foot patio and 234-square-foot balcony. A gravel driveway, an outdoor kitchen and a wastewater treatment system.

Committee member Herbert Sambol commended the applicant for “taking out the controversial aspects of the plan” and for reaching out to community members for comment and committee member Lilee Fell agreed.

Bill Mack of First Coastal Corporation, representing the Sag Harbor Villas Home Owners Association, presented the Villas’ application for a wetlands permit to reconstruct and restore 1,786 square feet of eroded shoreline bluff. The board closed the hearing after the brief presentation and asked Mr. Voorhis to prepare a draft approval.

Mr. Mack said “beach compatible sand” would be deposited on the site and biodegradable “coconut fiber” matting would be placed upon it to stabilize it as American beach grass is planted and takes root.

Referring to fill that was placed there last year without local or state permits, Mr. Mack said, “There were some efforts to combat the erosion that this is now formalizing and correcting” under the terms of a state DEC consent order, according to Mr. Schoen.

Board members asked about what board chair Mary Ann Eddy said was “a guy with a power tool cutting phragmites” when they visited the site. “Maybe they don’t understand,” said John Parker, that work close to the shoreline requires permits.

Ms. Eddy added, “I don’t think it’s wrong to ask them to come here and tell us about their phragmites maintenance plan.”

Monday’s public comment period at the start of the meeting drew four speakers: Rebecca Curtis, who called for restoring the wetlands at Havens Beach that were buried under dredge spoil decades ago; Jean Held, who said “something has to happen right away” to address pollution and runoff issues at Havens Beach, and that she did not like the pending plan to fix the runoff filtration system but that “something has to happen right away and maybe that’s it”; Joan Butler of the Friends of Havens Beach, who said the committee has “a very unempowered position” in its advisory role during the village’s LWRP update process. She asked that the committee’s role would be now that Mayor Mulcahy is establishing an environmental issues panel to advise the Village Board. She also said “small steps are not the answer” to address waterfront environmental concerns. There needs to be a plan “for the near and far future,” she said. Also, Cam Gleason urged the board to protect endangered terrapins when it grants permits for waterfront projects.