Overlay District Suggested to Control Waterfront Development

Environmental consultant Kathy Eiseman talks to the Village Board about waterfront development issues. In background, village attorney Denise Schoen and Trustees Aidan Corish and James Larocca. Peter Boody photo

The Sag Harbor Village Board this week began pondering the possibility of creating an overlay district to prevent unwanted development along the waterfront by standardizing the rules across its six zoning districts.

Kathy Eiseman from the village’s environmental consulting firm, Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, kicked off the topic near the start of Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the board, citing a July 24 memo to the mayor and trustees from the Planning Board raising “concerns about development in general in the waterfront area.”

Ms. Eiseman read a follow-up letter to the board from Planning Board chair Kay Preston Lawson, who was unable to attend Tuesday meeting, asking for “additional guidance … on the possibility of revisiting the comprehensive village plan last revised in 2003 and taking measures to review and plan for the village as it transitions into 2020 and the next 50 to 20 years.”

Ms. Lawson wrote that village attorney Denise Schoen and Ms. Eiseman had reviewed the current zoning code and the comprehensive plan to identify “areas of interest,” including the prospect for changes of use; the potential for parking variances; non-conforming uses being converted to different non-conforming uses; and retail spaces that have evolved into virtual shopping centers because of there is no no minimum area being required for additional commercial uses under the current code.

“You can have as many uses as will physically fit on a lot,” Ms. Schoen pointed out as one problem. The current rules, she said, do not clearly define “the allowable buildout — what is it?”

Another area of concern is the future of the largely undeveloped 20-acre Cormaria waterfront property between Havens Beach and the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard on Bay Street, as pointed out later in the meeting by Harbor Committee member John Parker. It is zoned for half-acre residential development.

A slide sown to the Village Board on Tuesday: the waterfront’s different zoning districts, each represented by a different color.

Board members questioned Ms. Schoen about current rules, including height restrictions and how they work with FEMA flood zone requirements and the current gross floor area limit for commercial properties of 3,000 square feet.

With six zoning classifications, including residential, office district, resort -hotel waterfront, and village-owned parkland, “We’ve been thinking of an overlay district so similar regulations would apply to all of them,” Ms. Schoen explained.

Trustee James Larocca cited the recently rebuilt and enlarged house at 4 West Water Street as something that “sticks in my craw” because of its height and mass. “We have recently further contributed to these anomalies” in what the regulations allow, he added, apparently referring to the condos now being built at 2 West Water Street.

The overall issue requires “more formal study,” Ms. Eiseman told the board. Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy urged her and Ms. Schoen “to go forth and we will look forward to hearing the next report.”

In other business, the board scheduled a public hearing for its meeting at 6 p.m. on October 8 on a proposal by Eric Fischl and April Gornik to extend the sewer line on Madison Street at their own expense from its terminus at Il Capuccino Ristorante to the former Methodist Church building, which they are converting into a residential arts center.

Also on Tuesday, the board:

  • Regretfully accepted the resignation of Edward Gregory from the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Trustee Thomas Gardella noted Ms. Gregory’s years of service since 1971, except for the three years in the 1980s when he served as a village trustee. “I would like to regretfully accept” his resignation and place him on the honorary membership rolls, as requested by Corps president Deborah O’Brien.
  • Reappointed Judith Long to the Historical Preservation and Architectural Review Board and named Robert Adams as an alternate member.
  • Heard Libby Goldstein ask for permission to conduct dog training sessions in the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park and promise she’d pick up after the dogs.
  • Heard Nada Barry ask that the Municipal Building public bathrooms remain open during large public events. They are currently closed on weekends.
  • Granted Sen restaurant permission to expand its outdoor dining capacity from eight to 12 seats.
  • Set a public hearing for October 8 for citizens to offer suggestions for improving handicapped access in the village through a Suffolk County grant the mayor said would be administered by the town of East Hampton.