Panel to Nix Dock Planned For the Creek At Otter Pond

A rendering of a proposed dock in Otter Pond Creek with the Main Street culvert visible at left.

Almost two years after it first drew steady fire in a hearing before the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee and was soon withdrawn, a revived plan to build a 23-foot dock with a 4-foot access ramp off a bulkhead into narrow Otter Pond Creek just west of Main Street looked headed for official rejection last week.

At its monthly meeting on October 5, the committee agreed unanimously to instruct its environmental consultant to draft a rejection to be voted on at the panel’s next meeting on November 4 to finally deny the application of Claxton House LLC for a wetlands permit to authorize the dock at 8 John Street.

“My sense is this application is going to be denied,” committee chairwoman Mary Ann Eddy said after the board heard from one more speaker before closing the latest public hearing on the controversial plan.

The speaker, Kevin McAllister of Noyac, founder and president of Defend H20, urged the board to reject the application because it would “set precedents for adjacent properties,” allowing docks to proliferate in the creek. It must be maintained as “an open corridor,” he said, to allow for future projects — such as dredging or replacement of the culvert under Main Street — to improve the water quality of Otter Pond.

After Eddy’s comment, the board’s counsel, Fred W. Thiele Jr., who also serves as state assemblyman, advised the board to ask its environmental consultant, Charles Voorhis, to “prepare a denial” resolution to be voted on next month.

Thiele noted that, during initial hearings in 2020 and again this summer, board members and residents had brought “a lot of attention” to the dock’s impact on “aesthetics and viewsheds” from public roadways and parklands, which he said “seem to be a big part” of what Chapter 285 of the village code, the village’s wetlands ordinance, had been adopted to protect.

The board and neighbors of the creek have consistently opposed the project, which the applicant’s representative described as intended only for kayaks and paddleboards, ever since it was first proposed in late 2019.

“That little waterway just doesn’t warrant putting a hard structure in it,” panel member Will Sharp said on February 6, 2020, when the committee resumed its initial January hearing on the proposal, which also called for major renovations of the house at 8 John Street plus a pool, spa and cabana. “I find it completely objectionable.”

“I look at the little creek and go, ‘No, no, no,’” Eddy said at the February session.

In March, thumbs remained down despite small modifications that had been made to address the board’s concerns — especially after owner Bryan Graybill told the panel that he and his partner wanted the dock so friends would be able to tie up their “tenders” there when they came to visit.

Docking “tenders” had never been mentioned in the months the application had been pending before the committee, member John Parker noted then. “Paddleboards and kayaks is what your consultant said” the dock would be for. “This is the first time I’ve heard you want to get power boats to that dock.”

A neighbor pointed out that the creek is inches deep at low tide.

With approvals in hand from other agencies for the expansion and renovation of the house, the installation of a saltwater pool, spa and cabana, as well as an “innovative/alternative” (I/A) nitrogen-reducing septic system as required by village code for major renovations and for new houses, attorney Alex Kriegsman offered to drop the dock from the application if the committee would grant a wetlands permit for the rest. The members agreed and eventually granted the revised application, according to Eddy.

“They badly wanted to move forward with the house so they pulled the dock out of the application and we approved the house, pool, etc.,” Eddy explained last week in an email. “Then they came back this summer with just the dock” as a separate application.

Also at the long October 5 meeting, which was conducted via Zoom due to the continuing pandemic, the panel moved to approve next month John McGuire’s application for a permit to nearly double an existing “non-disturbance buffer” with an additional 5,579-square-foot vegetative buffer and add drywells to contain runoff on his 37,690-square-foot waterfront property at 18 Bluff Point Road.

The applicant, who is seeking to legalize decking that was installed without a wetlands permit, Voorhis said, also has agreed to install an I/A nitrogen-reducing septic system, his attorney in the case, Haley Willis of the Adam Miller Group, told the board. She said her client “always wanted to do the right thing here.”

The panel also agreed to vote at the November 4 session on an approval for Steve Wolf’s C&C East Bay Associates to add a 900-square-foot second-story addition to the house at 100 Redwood Road on Sag Harbor Cove and install an I/A nitrogen-reducing septic system.

The plan calls for replacing a 25-foot vegetative buffer that covers 1,730 square feet of the 15,268-square-foot parcel with a “free form” buffer that will cover an additional 1,900 square feet or 25.4 percent of the property.

The committee raised several concerns with the application of John Schwartz’s 188 Redwood LLC for a permit to construct an extension to an existing bulkhead to prevent beach erosion and tabled the case until November 4.

One issue was the possibility that the return would increase beach scouring downstream. Another was the fact that the existing bulkhead is failing and is in “urgent need of repair,” the applicant’s attorney, Haley Willis, told the board — but the application specifies only the new return, not repair on the existing dock, as Voorhis pointed out.

In addition to revising the application, board members urged Willis to press her client to find a “soft solution in cooperation with the neighboring property owner” as an alternative to adding the bulkhead return.

“Everything is moving toward soft solutions and living shorelines, and that’s what we’re looking toward here,” Voorhis said.

He agreed with member Will Sharp’s suspicion that the existing bulkhead was originally installed and backfilled “to increase the footprint of the lot.”

“I do think that’s how it look from the aerials,” Voorhis said.