An ambitious effort on the part of the Sag Harbor Village Board to overhaul the zoning for a swathe of waterfront properties in just six months’ time ran into the reality that such efforts are usually a slog, not a sprint.
Accepting that reality, the Sag Harbor Village Board on Tuesday extended the partial moratorium it imposed in September another six months beyond its originally scheduled March 1 expiration date.
Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said it was apparent from feedback received that was both “technical” and “passionate” that the village needed to work out some kinks in the proposal and better explain its goals and objectives for adopting a form-based code for a slew of waterfront properties that face heavy development pressure.
“We have heard loud and clear,” the mayor said, “this doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be right.”
A major issue in the process has been a growing misunderstanding of whether the village was proposing to drop the on-site parking requirements contained in the current zoning code for waterfront parcels. Some have argued that would lead to a more attractive waterfront, while others have complained that would shift the entire burden of providing parking in a packed village to those who own property away from the waterfront.
Planning Board chairwoman Kay Lawson was the first village official to raise the alarm about the inadequacy of parking requirements as a planning tool in the face of growing development. She said a proposal unveiled Tuesday to allow applicants who cannot provide on-site parking the option of exploring other solutions through a traffic demand management plan would give developers real options for solving parking needs while protecting the village.
“This whole idea arose in part in reaction to some development that occurred in the village in recent times and in part by the realization there are other buildings on the waterfront that are ripe for redevelopment, including some that have recently changed hands,” she said.
Planning consultant Chris Hawley unveiled the idea of allowing developers to submit a transportation demand management plan instead of simply asking the village Zoning Board of Appeals for parking variances.
Such a plan would have to be completed by either a planner or traffic engineer and would address alternatives such as providing bicycle lanes, encouraging ride-sharing, or providing off-site parking. “Currently, Sag Harbor has no plan B if an applicant comes before the ZBA for a variance,” he said.
Trustee James Larocca, who once served as the state transportation commissioner, said in his experience, trying to provide such alternatives often fails. He said he would like to see examples of where similar proposals had worked in other communities.
Attorney Dennis Downes also offered his comments. Rather than focus on piecemeal rezoning for the waterfront, he suggested it was time for the village to take a step back.
“We are always putting our fingers in the dike to solve a problem,” he said. “Why can’t we just do one comprehensive plan for the entire village.”
Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, which is leading the fundraising and planning efforts for a new Bay Street Theater, said that asking every developer who could not provide parking to do their own study would result in an inefficient “hodge-podge” of solutions and suggested that it would be wiser to let developers pay into a parking fund to pay for a village-wide study of parking needs.
But Trustee Bob Plumb, a former ZBA member, said past experience had shown “in theory that’s a good idea, but in practice it is not.”
The board will take up the waterfront rezoning issue when it meets again on February 24. In the meantime, information about the process is available on the village website, sagharborny.gov.
Parking Hearing Set
The board agreed to schedule a hearing for March 9 on a proposal to introduce seasonal paid parking to Long Wharf. The plan, which was initially proposed for Main Street in the business district as well, would require that those who park in 94 spaces on the wharf to download the ParkMobile app. The first hour of parking would be free, but a $4 fee would be charged for each hour afterward. There would be a three-hour time limit between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., while those parking in the evening would have the option of extending their stay for five hours.
Trustee Aidan Corish, who has led the effort, said the village would provide 30-minute parking spaces along the east side of Long Wharf, so nearby businesses would not be choked off from their customers.
The village plans to use revenue from the parking program to undertake initiatives that would make Sag Harbor more pedestrian-and-bicyclist friendly, among other things.