Public Hearing on Methodist Church Zone Change in October

The exterior of the former church on Madison Street. Gavin Menu photo

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing at its October 9 meeting on whether to allow a zoning change for the Madison Street property that houses the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church. The change in zoning, from residential to village business, is not unprecedented, and would allow artists Eric Fischl and April Gornik, through the Fischl Gornik Family Foundation, to redevelop the 14,000-square foot space into an arts and community center that would also host an artist residency program.

The couple, who live in North Haven, purchased the property earlier this summer under a limited liability corporation for $7 million, according to county records.

They announced their intentions to transform the church space, originally built in 1864, into a flexible space for artists and makers. They are working with architect Lee Skolnick, a longtime friend and collaborator, on completing the renovation of the church, which was halted in 2015 by then owner, Sloan Schaffer, who had plans to turn the building into his private residence.

The resolution announcing the public hearing shows that this is not the first time trustees have considered a zone change for the property, which sits adjacent to the village business district. After the church congregation agreed to sell the property to former Goldman Sachs executive Dennis Suskind in 2008 for $2.8 million, the property was purchased by textile designer Elizabeth Dow, who in 2010 secured a change of zoning for the Madison Street parcel with plans to redevelop it into her textile and wall-covering studio. Ms. Dow sold the building to Mr. Schaffer in 2013 for $4 million and it was once more re-zoned into a residential property. Mr. Schaffer re-listed the property for $23.5 million in 2015.