Planning Board Extends West Water Street Hearing to January

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A rendering of 2 West Water Street by architect Andre Kikoski.

Through the December 20, 2018, meeting of the Sag Harbor Planning Board, public comments on developer Jay Bialsky’s site plan for a complex of townhouses at 2 West Water Street have been scarce — a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the board members.

That was the motivation for the board to hold open the public hearing for Mr. Bialsky’s site plan application for one more month, to its January 22 meeting. The public hearing was first opened in August of 2018.

“I think that the public, like some of us, find it sort of hard to follow the moving pieces,” said board member Neil Slevin, who briefly served as interim board chairman before John Shaka took over on December 20. “This ongoing open hearing is about ready to close because we have now received all of the documentation that we are going to receive.”

He suggested to one of Mr. Bialsky’s attorneys, Brian DeSesa, that a “final presentation” should “put it in a nice bundle.” Mr. Slevin also put out a reminder the documents on file at the Sag Harbor Building Department — including surveys, architectural drawings, lighting and landscaping plans and other materials — may be viewed by the public via Freedom of Information Law request.

“The public will have their last opportunity to comment on the documents” in January, Mr. Slevin said.

Mr. DeSesa politely objected to continuing the hearing. Not only does the sale of the neighboring lot on Ferry Road to Southampton Town via the Community Preservation Fund — slated to become the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park — have yet to close, but Mr. DeSesa also said Mr. Bialsky wants to demolish the existing building and clear the site before Sag Harbor’s busy season picks up again.

“[The plans] have been available for some months now,” he said. “The only new information was the lighting plan. Everything else has been available to the public for some time now.”

The board agreed with Mr. Slevin, however, and voted 5-0 to hold open the hearing one more month. That would also give the East Hampton Fire Marshal additional time to send back comments on the application, according to the Planning Board’s attorney, Denise Schoen.

Mr. Bialsky has proposed three residences in two structures that have the appearance of three buildings, totaling just under 24,000 square feet. Underground parking and dock slips are among the planned amenities. The project already has several variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals and is set for a public hearing in front of the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review on January 10 at 5 p.m.

Earlier in the Planning Board’s meeting, Mr. Shaka posed a handful of questions about the plans. He asked whether the buildings will be lit at night; in response, Mr. DeSesa described sconce lighting above the doors and walkway lighting. “There is no proposed façade lighting,” he said.

Mr. Shaka, formerly a member of the Harbor Committee, also questioned plans for dock slips, noting that a “very large boat” could theoretically dock there. Mr. DeSesa said the six proposed dock slips could potentially be used as three, depending on the width of the boats. The Planning Board has the ability to add a condition of approval that would prohibit boats of certain sizes from docking in particular places.

Mr. Shaka also inquired about plans to add a new bulkhead at the shoreline behind the new buildings. Hard structures, he said, are in conflict with the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. Mr. DeSesa and architect Dave Harvey explained the new bulkhead was the preference of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“There were other proposals that were shot down by the DEC there,” Mr. DeSesa said.

The board also reviewed an updated plan for the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, which submitted an application to add 1,220 square feet of space on the third floor for offices and virtual reality programming, as well as a 600-square-foot roof deck. After a brief discussion, the board was generally in favor of approving the application, which has already received the necessary variances from the ZBA. The board voted to hold off on approving the application, opting to wait for comments from the fire marshal, expected by the next meeting. The board did direct Ms. Schoen to draft a resolution for approval of the cinema’s updated plans for the next meeting.

In other Planning Board actions on December 20, the board began the process of taking on a comprehensive environmental review of an application by Uptown Pilates at 23 Bridge Street. The proposal is to renovate the existing building and add a new structure to be used as an exercise studio excluding showers, with dry storage and non-medical offices.

The board held off on approving an application for Dopo la Spiaggia on Bay Street, which sought permission to add 462 square feet in the back to connect an existing outdoor shed to the rest of the building and reconfigure its restrooms. A rooftop deck of less than 60 square feet without any seating would be added above the first floor of the restaurant, and new mechanical equipment with soundproofing would also be constructed on top of the building. While the board was in favor of approving the application, similar to other applications, the board said it preferred to hear comments from the fire marshal before a final vote.

The board also voted 5-0 to approve an application that has lingered for years off-and-on again on its agenda: a lot line modification for William Richmond Watson and Lynn St. John and Whitney St. John Fairchild, who sought to combine their three properties at 241 Main Street, 237 Main Street and 8 Palmer Terrace into two properties. The lot at 8 Palmer Terrace will be divided among the two Main Street properties and will cease to exist.

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