By Christine Sampson
The rebuilding process following the Sag Harbor Cinema fire last December has yielded a handful of successes so far and is otherwise going well, Sag Harbor Building Inspector Tom Preiato reported this week.
“At this point it’s now progressing smoothly,” he said in an interview. “I would say, given the unusual situation of having to rebuild after a fire, progress can’t be expected to be the same as building new on vacant property. I know that they’ve had insurance companies to deal with and other certain legal issues, and that all would play into the time frame, so just at a quick glance it appears that progress has been slow, but I know that everyone is working on rebuilding.”
Most notably, construction began about three weeks ago at 84 Main Street, the Meridian building, which will again house the Compass Real Estate firm once complete. The Sag Harbor Express previously reported the first two floors will be offices and a third floor will be residential, as opposed to the previous one-and-a-half floors of commercial and one-and-a-half floors of residential the building previously housed. The final project ultimately required seven Zoning Board of Appeals variances, including total lot coverage and parking requirements.
“They have had to deal, as they all will have to deal, with the depth to ground water,” Mr. Preiato said. “It has caused them to need engineering for the foundation in the form of helical piles that have to get put in.”
Jim McGinniss, who owns 84 Main Street, could not be reached for comment. John Gicking, senior managing director of Compass, said the firm is hopeful it will reopen in Sag Harbor by Memorial Day in 2018.
“The design was wholeheartedly approved by the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review and the new building will be a beautiful addition to what is arguably one of the great Main Streets of the country,” Mr. Gicking said in an email.
The latest engineering report for 96 Main Street, which will once again house the Brown Harris Stevens real estate firm when it is restored, says the north wall of the building no longer has to be immediately braced. That’s because a temporary roof was built, bracing the whole building, Mr. Preiato said. Hank Katz, owner of 96 Main Street, could not be reached for comment.
“Something like this can be challenging because you would have to get the neighboring property’s permission,” Mr. Preiato said. “They can now proceed. The permits are in place and they are ready to go full speed ahead.”
SagTown Coffee, however, is another story. After the business finished rebuilding and reopened this summer — having newly expanded to the retail space facing Main Street that formerly housed Collette Consignment — Mr. Preiato almost immediately began issuing the coffee shop’s owner, Shane Dyckman, tickets for alleged violations of the coffee shop’s certificate of occupancy. He said the coffee shop did not have permission to expand its uses to food preparation and add seating.
SagTown’s ticket total is up to 37 as of Friday, and after pleading not guilty in September, Mr. Dyckman and his attorney, Brian DeSesa, are due back in court in February. Each ticket can carry a fine as large as $1,000.
“I think I’ve gotten my point across,” Mr. Preiato said. “To come into immediate compliance with their valid C of O, they could have nine stools in the upper area and sell coffee-related retail throughout. … He should get the right use and move forward. He’s sending the message of flaunting the code.”
Mr. DeSesa said Wednesday a new site plan application has yet to be filed with the Sag Harbor Planning Board to legalize the changes.
“It’s kind of a back and forth because we are trying to determine what the use is,” he said. “We’re engaged with the village at this point. We’re trying to work things out. We want to be good neighbors.”
Mr. Preiato has previously said the good news is buildings on Main Street are getting safer in the wake of the fire, with features such as fire sprinkler systems and better entrances and exits — known as “egress” in building code language — built into construction plans. But the bad news for building owners, he said this week, is that those features can make the rebuilding process more expensive, particularly if insurance didn’t cover those costs.
“Insurance companies pay for what was there, not for what will be needed generally,” he said. “Not for what’s going to be required code wise. If you didn’t have a sprinkler system before, guess what, you’re paying for it now, because they’re not going to pay for something you didn’t have. That’s the unfortunate part.”