Harbor Panel and Neighbors Agree: Don’t Allow Dock in Otter Pond Creek

Architect’s rendering shows the proposed house renovation and kayak dock at 8 John Street, as seen from Main Street where it crosses Otter Pond Creek.

Plans to build a kayak and paddleboard dock off an existing bulkhead on Otter Pond Creek as part of a major house renovation and expansion at 8 John Street continued to draw fire from members of the Harbor Committee, as well as neighbors, at the panel’s February 6 meeting.

“I still have some hesitation here,” said committee Chairwoman Mary Ann Eddy, a month after members had all but rejected the proposal when it was first aired in January.

“It would be an obstruction to the tides to put anything on that bulkhead,” said committee member Will Sharp, who added that a dock “would disturb the subtlety of the creek.”

Putting a dock in the narrow creek, he added, “You’re going to open up a can of worms, because the neighbors are all going to want to do the same thing, and all of a sudden nobody’s going to be able to put their kayaks in without going zigzag.”

Committee member Lilee Fell, noting that protecting “historic views” is one of the goals of Sag Harbor’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, spoke of often looking over the bridge that crosses the creek as she drives along Main Street to enjoy the prospect.

“That little waterway just doesn’t warrant putting a hard structure in it,” Mr. Sharp said in January, when the committee opened its hearing on the proposal. “I find it completely objectionable.”

“I look at the little creek and go, ‘No, no, no,’” Ms. Eddy said at the January 2 session.
Thumbs remained down despite several modifications made since the January meeting to address the board’s concerns.

Outlined by Danna Cuneo of B. Laing Associates environmental consultants on behalf of the applicant, Bryan Graybill of Claxton House LLC in New York City, they included the deletion of a proposed curving, mulched path to the dock that would have taken up 534 square feet of a required vegetative buffer. Non-native ornamentals in the buffer also were removed from the landscaping plan, and a proposed staircase to the creek was realigned parallel to the bulkhead to eliminate the need for grading on the upland side of the structure.
The proposed dock, a 4-foot-by-25.5-foot multi-tiered fixed pier, has a permit from the Southampton Town Trustees and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The overall proposal, which requires a wetlands permit from the Harbor Committee, also calls for renovating and putting an addition on the existing house, reconstructing and relocating the garage, and adding a cabana, spa and saltwater pool. Drywells and an innovative/alternative septic system are proposed.

Reviewing renderings of the proposed structure, architect Andrew Cogar told the committee, “The choke point for the creek isn’t the proposed dock. It’s the abandoned abutment for the old rail line,” which crosses the mouth of the creek where it meets Upper Sag Harbor Cove.

“I don’t know. I’m getting whiny. But I just don’t see it,” Ms. Eddy said after arguing with

Ms. Cuneo and Mr. Cogar about the impact of the dock on the creek and what she considered its doubtful practicality for a kayak user — an issue also raised by committee member John Parker and others.

In the end, Ms. Eddy directed Ms. Cunneo and Mr. Cogar to go to their client and come up with some other way to manage the storage and use of their kayaks and paddleboards. The board tabled the application and left the hearing open until its next meeting at 5 p.m. on March 5.

A davit system, a crane-like device, was one suggestion Mr. Sharp made, which Ms. Eddy said could be a “win-win” for the property owners and the committee; so was simply carrying paddleboards and kayaks in and out of the water from the shore, as Mr. Sharp said a neighbor across the creek did.

Mr. Cogar argued that the installation of a davit system “requires more clearing and mulch … you’d be disturbing more” of the shoreline than installing the dock would require.

“You can just ‘put in,’ the way the neighbor does,” Mr. Sharp replied, adding, “If we allow this, it’s going to open up a can of worms, and you are going to impact navigation unconditionally.”

Attorney Tiffany Scarlato also spoke against the proposal on behalf of her mother, who lives next to the creek at 326 Main Street, a family property since 1901, she said. It’s “not a navigable area,” she said. “I don’t know why you’d want to put in a dock for kayaks or need a dock. It’s only 4 or 5 inches deep at low tide in the summer.”

Citing the “view shed issues” Ms. Fell had mentioned, Ms. Scarlato said she remembered that, when the Main Street bridge over the creek was reconstructed when she was a child, “they chose pink” as the color to paint it “for the reflection of the sunsets” that light up the structure in the evenings. Putting a dock in the creek “and piling kayaks on it will significantly alter what they did when they redid the bridge,” she said.

Also speaking against the dock was the neighbor on the other side of the creek, Anton Hagen, a former chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and a former village trustee.

He said his family has kayaks. “We put them in. We don’t have a structure,” he said, but “we will put in an application” for a dock “if this is approved. So be careful of precedents you set in permitting this dock.”