Sag Harbor Planning Board Closes Hearing on Waterfront Townhouses

A rendering of the most recent plans for 2 West Water Street by architect Andre Kikoski.

Developer Jay Bialsky’s proposal for a three-unit townhouse complex on West Water Street inched toward a ruling by the Sag Harbor Planning Board on Tuesday even as controversy continued to plague the plans.

Barbara Roberts, a co-founder of the nonprofit Save Sag Harbor, got up to tell the board a group of fellow North Haven residents is in the process of forming for the purpose of commenting on the townhouse plans.

“We are very concerned. Many of us are coming together to be sure that you’re caring about the lighting and what the view is going to be from the other side of our beautiful harbor and what the impact is on the harbor,” Ms. Roberts said. “I personally find the scale and character horrendous … and I’m concerned about precedent.”

But the planning board won’t be the venue for those residents’ comments.

They’ll instead have to take their input to Sag Harbor’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review or Harbor Committee, as the Planning Board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to close the public hearing on Mr. Bialsky’s project. Board chairman John Shaka voted “no,” saying he still wanted more information, but the board members who voted yes did so in acknowledgement of the fact that the public hearing had been ongoing since September.

The closure of the public hearing sets the stage for the planning board to make a decision on Mr. Bialsky’s site plan within the next two months. The board agreed to have a more in-depth discussion during its work session on February 26 at 5 p.m.

Before the board closed the hearing, architects representing Mr. Bialsky and Save Sag Harbor continued to clash on Tuesday, albeit more quietly than their previous meeting on January 10, over the details of an animated, three-dimensional model presented by Save Sag Harbor. The accuracy of the model, which Save Sag Harbor says illustrates the townhouse proposal’s mass and scale as seen from the street, from on the water and from the Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, has been disputed by two Bialsky representatives, attorney Brian DeSesa and architect Dave Harvey.

On Tuesday Randy Croxton, an architect who is on the board of Save Sag Harbor, said he had verified with Mr. Bialsky’s architects that the model had been accurate on all of the significant points. One detail, the height of a building next door, had to be corrected; the animated model he showed the planning board included the correction, Mr. Croxton said.

“I received some very encouraging confirmations” from Mr. Bialsky’s team, Mr. Croxton said. “We do feel that it’s accurate. … To confirm the accuracy of our model, we were able to photo-match the 7-Eleven building and the residential building with this image. That is as rigorous an affirmation of accuracy that you can get.”

Mr. DeSesa, however, said Mr. Bialsky’s team continued to dispute the model’s correctness. He said they will be providing a video of their own — which will include drone footage over the water and bridge — as well as a physical 3D model that will be presented for the architectural review board on Thursday, January 24, and for the Harbor Committee in February.

He also reminded the board that Mr. Bialsky was choosing to forego developing 51,000 square feet of office district space, which is within his legal right to do on the slice of land slated to be sold to Southampton Town as the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, along with the 10 other condominium units that are grandfathered for the site.

Ms. Roberts also questioned whether Mr. Bialsky’s project triggered the need to add workforce housing units. Village attorney Denise Schoen said it would not, as projects with five or more units must include some sort of affordable housing component, but said she would ask the building inspector for a determination on whether the project triggers the need for the developer to pay into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.

Edward Van Raay of North Haven told the planning board he and his partner, Beth Josephs, are worried about the size of the project, especially unit three, the one closest to the water.

“We hope that at some point there can still be a further downsizing, maybe not of units one and two but maybe unit three, which comes across as not very Sag Harbor-like,” he said.

Mr. Bialsky’s team will be back before the architectural review board on Thursday, January 24, at 5 p.m. for another public hearing in the second-floor meeting room of the municipal building at 55 Main Street.

In other news, the Planning Board began environmental reviews of two major projects. One is for a two-story retail and office building proposed by Vacs Enterprises LLC at 31 Long Island Avenue. The other is for a special exception use permit and site plan application by artists April Gornik and Eric Fischl at 48 Madison Street, the former Sag Harbor Methodist Church, which they intend to convert to an arts incubator.

The board also unanimously approved an application for the restaurant Dopo la Spiaggia on Bay Street to build a 462-square-foot kitchen addition, rooftop deck, two handicap-accessible bathrooms and screened rooftop ventilation equipment. The project awaits final approval by the architectural review board.

The Planning Board tabled approval of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center’s proposal to add 1,220 square feet of space on the third floor as well as a 600-square-foot roof deck. Questions were raised over elements of plans that were before the architectural review board, so village attorney Denise Schoen advised them “it’s probably a good idea to hold off” another month while the issues are worked out. Representatives of the cinema are expected to be back before the architectural review board on Thursday, January 24.

A still image from Save Sag Harbor’s 3D animated model showing the mass and scale of the 2 West Water Street townhouse proposal. Courtesy Save Sag Harbor