Proposed Increase in Village Fees Irks Local Business Owners

Scaffolding on the Schiavoni's IGA building has been in place for several months. Christine Sampson photo

A proposed increase in fees for the use of sidewalks for events, construction work and other such “encumbrances,” as defined in Sag Harbor’s village code, and a new fee for similar uses of parking spaces brought out frustrated business owners en masse during Wednesday’s village board meeting.

The village has proposed raising sidewalk encumbrance permit fees, which are currently enforced as $25 per month, to $75 per day, and adding a similar parking space permit. Village officials said Wednesday the permit fee was initially meant to be $25 per day but at the moment is ambiguously written in the village code and had since been in effect as $25 per month.

Additionally, any contractors performing work on behalf of the business or resident applying for the encumbrance permit would have to name Sag Harbor Village as an additional insured party in the amount of $1 million, if the village board approves the changes.

Gwen Waddington, co-owner of the Wharf Shop, said the increased encumbrance fee, which would cover maintenance and construction work that takes place on sidewalks in front of storefronts, might threaten business owners’ ability to properly maintain their buildings.

“I think the fee structure … will make it prohibitive,” she said. “While we’re pleased to own real estate on Main Street, we’re not perhaps the wealthiest of real estate people. We want to maintain our building but this may make it financially difficult for us to keep up ongoing maintenance.”

Lisa Field, president of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, asked the board to take nonprofit organizations into consideration when it finalizes the encumbrance permit fees. She said those fees, if applied to the Chamber, would make some of its popular events cost prohibitive.

“Doing the math, it’s about $14,000 for the weekend,” Ms. Field said. “We would not be able to put on HarborFest. We already invest over $10,000 in HarborFrost.”

Mayor Sandra Schroeder replied to Ms. Field’s comments on nonprofits by saying, “This was an unintended consequence and we’re working on it.”

Alicia Schiavoni, representing Schiavoni’s IGA, asked the village board to reconsider the fee increase or at least increase them on a more gradual scale over time. She said had the new fees been in place when she started the IGA’s major restoration and renovation project, they would have accounted for an additional $79,000.

“I think it’s egregious,” she said.

The board responded by saying the village was simply updating its code to reflect practices already in place in other municipalities on Long Island. The current law was last changed in 1983.

Trustees Aidan Corish and Ken O’Donnell backed the mayor’s stance.

“In some respects, we’re going through a lot of issues like this,” Mr. Corish said. “The village has to align itself with what’s generally accepted in other communities. It’s a shared space … I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have some adjustment.”

Mr. O’Donnell said, “All we’re doing is catching up and taking care of a clerical error that was made years ago.”

Because Wednesday’s meeting had been rescheduled from Tuesday, the board voted to hold open the hearing on sidewalk and parking space encumbrance fees through its March 28 meeting. That meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the municipal building meeting room.

Scaffolding partially obstructs the sidewalk in front of Sen Restaurant, which is under renovation, on March 16, 2018. Christine Sampson photo