Sag Harbor Officials Say Transparency Is Key For Bay Street Proposal

The building that once housed Dodds & Eder in Sag Harbor has been the subject of rumors related to the pending move of Bay Street Theater. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Sag Harbor Village officials, who last week peppered representatives of Bay Street Theater for details about their plans to build a new theater on the site of the 7-Eleven convenience store, said this week it was urgent that Bay Street unveil their building plans — however preliminary — and address rumors they are actively shopping for additional properties nearby.

Bay Street’s representatives told the board they plan to build only a single theater building at this point, but they have been reticent about discussing whether there are plans to buy more property in the area.

“We know people are concerned, people are wondering what we are building,” said Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, the nonprofit organization formed to raise money and design the new theater. But Mr. Potter said he anticipated that a conceptual plan for the theater would be unveiled in as little as three weeks. “We as an organization need to get to what our design will look like,” he said, while acknowledging that any plans would be subject to modification during the review process.

Mr. Potter stressed that renderings making the rounds in the village that show two large buildings on the waterfront — one on the site of the Water Mill Shops building, which includes the 7-Eleven, and the other on a corner property, where K Pasa restaurant, Espresso market, and the Yummylicious! ice cream parlor are now — were an early concept and are no longer on the table.

“That design would make the park the front lawn of the theater, and the theater would become the dominant element of that part of the waterfront,” said Trustee James Larocca, who played a major role in securing the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. “That is the very opposite of what this labor to create Steinbeck Park is all about. The park should not be ancillary to a very large building.”

While Mr. Larocca said he would welcome a design that provided improved public access to the park, which Mr. Potter has said is the ultimate goal, he stressed the proof would be in the pudding.

“It absolutely confirmed in my mind how important it is for there to be full, open disclosure of everything that is going on in that waterfront district,” he said. “The stakes are very high. Our waterfront, for generations to come, is in play. It is therefore imperative that conceptual sketches or renderings of their plans should be in the public domain right now.”

Those concerns were echoed by Trustee Aidan Corish. “The people of the village deserve transparency,” he said. “It’s great to go to a meeting and talk about all the wonderful stuff you are going to do. But let’s see something. Let’s see what you have in mind. Only then can we have a dialogue.”

Mr. Corish said there was naturally some trepidation as to what shape the new building will take. “We all know it is going to be bigger than the 7-Eleven,” he said, while adding the current building “has nothing to recommend itself architecturally.”

Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said she was confident Bay Street would come forward with a good plan. “Had Bay Street not bought this building, we would have a two-story 7-Eleven with a blank brick wall looking out over the park and an unattractive parking lot,” she said.

“I think they are trying to work with the village to provide something palatable,” added Trustee Bob Plumb, who said he was happy the developers seemed to be trying to work with the village in its efforts to reduce the density of development along the waterfront.

Both Mayor Mulcahy and Mr. Corish said they are concerned about Bay Street’s plans to build a second, 99-seat theater in addition to the proposed 299-seat main auditorium. “Can you imagine if someone came to town and said, ‘We want to build a 100-seat theater, but we aren’t going to provide parking,’” Mr. Corish said. Ms. Mulcahy said it was imperative that Bay Street come up with a proposal to provide enough parking to meet its needs.

Village officials said they were aware of rumors that Friends of Bay Street or another group or individual with ties to that organization was interested in buying property on the block bounded by Water, Meadow, Rose and Bridge Streets.

At last week’s Village Board meeting, Mr. Potter conceded that some properties might be in contract, but he would not say who was buying them. He said the goal was to provide new spaces for tenants being displaced from the Water Street Shops building.

Dottie Simons, the owner of Sanctuary Home, a home furnishings store formerly known as Dodds & Eder, who moved out the building at 11 Bridge Street in January, said Mr. Potter had talked to her about possible future tenants for her space in the building and had told her he represented the new landlord.

She said she had heard he was looking at other buildings in the neighborhood as well.

At last week’s Village Board meeting, Mr. Larocca said he had been told that tenants in an unnamed building, which Ms. Simons and other sources had since identified as 11 Bridge Street, had been told they would have to vacate the premises.

“Other than the purchase of 7-Eleven, everything else is rumor and conjecture,” Mr. Corish said. “It’s incumbent on them to host an event. They need to give us some idea of what they have in mind.”

He said the Village Board had the right to “exercise broad oversight” over the plans. “They are 10 steps ahead of the village,” he said of Bay Street.

Mr. Potter said he could not discuss the particulars of any property purchases. As to 11 Bridge Street, he said, “Personally, I’m not the buyer. Friends of Bay Street are not the buyer.”

As to concerns that the entire area may be in play, he said, “I’m not aware of that whole block going to a developer.”