By Kathryn G. Menu
The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing Tuesday, January 12, on a scaled back moratorium on major residential construction projects. The moratorium is necessary, village officials said this week, while it considers four amendments to its zoning code.
If adopted, the proposed moratorium replaces the current moratorium, which is scheduled to end on January 25. The new moratorium eases up on many of the restrictions contained in the first moratorium. It allows all residential development projects that meet proposed gross floor area restrictions unveiled as a part of a series of code revisions late last month to move forward (see related story). Any application that has already earned an exemption from the current moratorium will also not be subject to the new moratorium, which will also have an exemption process. That process would allow a homeowner who had already received approval from one of the village’s regulatory boards, but whose project did not meet the gross floor area ratio law, to be able to request an exemption, provided they could prove they had already spent a substantial amount of money on it.
The board will rule on outstanding exemption requests under the existing moratorium at Tuesday’s meeting as well, said village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr.
The second moratorium would expire no later than April 30, or earlier — if the village board adopts the proposed amendments to the zoning code, according to Mr. Thiele.
However, on December 30, when the new moratorium was introduced, some residents and business owners expressed concern about the impact the extension could have, and questioned the timing of the law’s introduction — days after the Christmas holiday and just before the New Year when many residents are on vacation.
From the audience Max Baurf-Krey asked the board to explain its timing.
“Right now this will give an opportunity to residents to start moving on applications,” said Mayor Sandra Schroeder. She said the new moratorium was being put in place so residents who meet proposed gross floor area requirements could move forward with their projects while the village embarks on presenting those amendments to the public.
Mr. Thiele later added that with the current moratorium set to expire on January 25, the board decided to introduce the law so a public hearing would be held during its regularly scheduled January meeting.
Mr. Baurf-Krey also questioned why a moratorium extension was originally on a December 8 agenda, only to be removed, which Ms. Schroeder said was a mistake on her part. He also wondered why the moratorium was being proposed rather than extending the current moratorium.
“The modified moratorium is much, much more open for applicants,” said Mr. Thiele, adding it allows applications to be processed by the village.
“Isn’t this really a new zoning code rather than a new moratorium?” asked Mr. Baurf-Krey.
“No,” said Mr. Thiele. “This is a moratorium with certain exclusions.”
Tom O’Donoghue, of the Sag Harbor based construction firm, Tom O’Donoghue Associates Building & Renovation, asked if the board wants applicants to work off the proposed new code, why not just enact the provisions.
“Because the public has a right to come in and question us,” said Ms. Schroeder.
Mr. O’Donoghue countered that the public is being asked to go by those rules anyway, and expressed concerns that the moratorium could morph into something that lasts longer than a year.
Getting a building permit “is a lengthy process right now,” said Mr. O’Donoghue. He asked the board what its timeframe was for adopting the new code.
“It depends on the public discussion,” said Trustee Robbie Stein, adding he hopes because of the work done in preparing the code amendments and the public discussions planned it would not be a lengthy process.
“While this process is going on everyone working for the village still gets their paychecks while the rest of us in construction are in limbo,” said Mr. O’Donoghue.
Another couple in the audience said their home was on the market and in contract before the moratorium was enacted in July and then their buyer dropped out.
“Everyone is just sitting and waiting,” said Kat Eban. “I was praying come January everything would be resolved.”
“It’s a huge issue for us,” she said later.
Trustee Ed Deyermond bristled, responding that changes in the village were a “huge issue for us too.”
“I don’t need to be educated about this,” she said. “I have sat here since 1999 and watched my neighborhood be destroyed.”
Saying she was frustrated, Ms. Eban asked if there was a way to handle these concerns through aesthetics rather than limits on square footage, calling for a referendum.
“I have been in favor of stopping what is happening in the village, but I do not think this is the right way and I have the right to say that as a taxpayer in the village,” she said.
The village board will meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12, in the second floor meeting room of the Municipal Building, 55 Main Street in Sag Harbor.
– Additional reporting by Stephen J. Kotz