By Christine Sampson
The Sag Harbor Planning Board on Tuesday signed off on a state-mandated review of the Sag Harbor Cinema rebuild that concluded the project will likely have “no significant adverse environmental impacts,” and it set a public hearing on the project for February 27.
The planning board voted 5-0 to accept its environmental consultant’s recommendation of what is known as a “negative declaration.” Board chairman Gregory Ferraris recused himself from the vote, as he has done previously with cinema matters. New board alternate member Kay P. Lawson cast a vote on a major village project for the first time.
April Gornik, vice president of the Sag Harbor Partnership, which recently closed on the purchase of the cinema property to rebuild it as the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, was elated to hear the news.
“We’re thrilled to have this negative declaration, in part because the partnership’s mission has always involved preservation of our natural environment,” she said Wednesday. “We want to make sure that as we go to rebuild the cinema, each step is done with respect, care and transparency. We’ve done a lot of due diligence toward making this happen for months now while we had been trying to fundraise to close on the property, hiring the right inspectors and experts.”
The study, completed via the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), considered the fact that the proposed building is in the historic district and also the fact that “existing site constraints” persist, such as its location in the village’s tidal flood hazard overlay district.
“The proposed building will remain consistent with the surrounding area and historic nature of the Sag Harbor Historic District,” the study reads. “Since the proposed action includes the reconstruction of a historic building that was damaged during a fire, it is not anticipated that there will be adverse impacts on cultural and historic resources.”
Addressing stormwater flow, the study also concluded the proposed cinema building would not result in extra drainage and runoff issues. While new drainage management methods were proposed for the site, none had been deemed practical or feasible, and it was determined that “the proposed building will not result in an increase in impervious surfaces and stormwater will be managed in the same manner as the previous cinema use.”
The planning board also set a public hearing on the cinema project for its February 27 meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room at the municipal building. The cinema will also appear on the February 20 agenda of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The cinema’s SEQRA process was a relatively swift one, spanning about two months as opposed to the years-long processes that other large projects in the village have required.
“Reconstructing something that’s there rarely has a significant environmental impact,” said attorney Christopher Kelley, who is handling the project for the Sag Harbor Partnership. “…This is not a surprise to us and we congratulate the village on handling it so expeditiously.”
The planning board’s quick action is important for the partnership, Mr. Kelley said.
“We need to move forward,” he said. “It helps because this is a not-for-profit trying to raise money here and we want to give donors confidence that it is going to happen.”