Mixed Decisions Ahead on Pools; Frustration about Septic System

Environmental consultant Frank Piccininni showed the Harbor Committee this image, taken during rainy weather on Monday, of standing water between Ligonee Brook and the property at 36 Fordham Road.

With its chairman Mary Ann Eddy having declared her opposition to granting a wetlands permit to allow a pool within the required 75-foot wetlands buffer overlooking Ligonee Brook at 36 Fordham Street, the Harbor Committee of Sag Harbor closed the public hearing on the case at its monthly meeting on Monday, May 13.

That clears the way for the board to direct its environmental consultant to draft a decision for the board to consider next month.

Aggressively opposed by a number of speakers including attorney Jeffrey Bragman on behalf of a neighbor across the brook as a threat the brook’s environmental health, the application of 36 Fordham Holdings, LLC has been pending before the panel for many months and seemed headed for approval at its December 2018 meeting until Mr. Bragman first spoke against it. The panel’s environmental consultant, Charles Voorhis, has recommended approving the application as no threat to the brook.

At the same meeting, the panel appeared poised to grant a redevelopment plan for low-lying waterfront property at 28 Long Point Road that also calls for a pool within the required wetlands buffer.

Also on Monday, a plan to put an addition on a house on Redwood Road and install a pool frustrated board members — even though the plan completely conforms to the wetlands code — because the applicant intends to install a conventional septic system instead of a nitrogen-reducing system.

The board on Monday closed its hearing on the application of Blair Effron/Wayward Partners, LLC for 28 Long Point Road, first aired in February with no opposition, and asked Mr. Voorhis to prepare a draft decision granting a permit to be considered at next month’s meeting.

The application was praised by board members when it was first presented in February. It has been further tweaked since then to reduce the proposed pool’s intrusion into in the wetlands buffer by 13 feet so that it is 47 feet from the wetlands boundary on one side and 60 feet on the other, Mike Schiano of Inter-Science Research Associates told the board Monday.

Proposed environmental improvements include removing all the lawn and non-native ornamentals on the existing .9-acre lot, which is surrounded by water on three sides, and replacing it with 12,369 square feet of native vegetation. An existing private asphalt road will be removed and replaced with pervious gravel and the pool will have an ozone purification system.

Addressing a neighbor’s concerns, Mr. Schiano on Monday presented an engineer’s statement that any runoff displaced by planned fill will be dispersed into Morris Cove and Upper Sag Harbor Cove and won’t cause flood neighboring property.

With attorney Jeffrey Bragman having argued Monday that the board under the law must reject the 36 Fordham Street application because there are practical alternatives for the pool’s location and size that would reduce its proximity to wetlands, committee member John Parker noted that the board had to be sure there are no practical alternatives in the 28 Long Point Road case before granting a permit.

That prompted Mr. Effron’s attorney Mary Jane Asato, to note that in February the board — just after hearing the 36 Fordham case — had asked that the pool in the 28 Long Point Road case be shifted and slightly reduced in size to 12 by 40 feet to increase the wetlands setback. With the smaller, 12-foot edge of the pool now facing the water, she noted, its impact is almost “de minimis.”

“Overall, only about 100 square feet of the pool is within the setback,” she said.

I/A Septic System Not in Plan

The board appeared to have no choice but to grant the application of Judy Gilbert for a wetlands permit to build an addition on an existing house at 148 Redwood Road and put in a pool with terrace even though an old cesspool on the property will be replaced with a standard septic system, not an “innovative/alternative,” nitrogen-reducing system, which is now required by village code to protect local waters from pollution.

The project meets all requirements of the wetlands code so no waivers are needed; a permit for the standard septic system was granted by the Suffolk County Department of Health before Sag Harbor adopted its “I/A” requirements in March, environmental planner Emily Rabbe of Inter-Science Research Associates told the board.

Board members cajoled Ms. Gilbert’s attorney, Tiffany Scarlato, to urge her client to “do the right thing,” as Lilee Fell put it, and put in an I/A system to protect the bay system.

Board member Will Sharp, asking the board’s attorney if it had any leverage in the matter, said it “seems like a slap in the face.”

An audience member, Joan Butler, a member of the Friends of Havens Beach, called the plan to install a standard septic system on the waterfront property “shameful” and “one of a thousand cuts that bleed into the bay.”

“This house will be there emitting nitrogen into the harbor for 150 years,” she added.

Ms. Scarlato told the board that switching to an I/A system would require a complete “re-engineering” of the project, which would add costs and long delays. “I’ll ask them,” she said of the applicant, but it would be a “significant difficulty.”