Sag Harbor Planning Board Okays Townhouses, Postpones Cinema Decision

The final renderings of the townhouses to be built at 2 West Water Street. Image by Andre Kikoski, architect

The Sag Harbor Planning Board on Tuesday pushed one major downtown project forward and postponed making a decision on another as it said goodbye to its chairman, who will resign on April 1.

After a final review of all the talking points the Planning Board discussed over the past several months, it approved a written decision for developer Jay Bialsky’s complex of townhouses at 2 West Water Street. The 4-0 vote, with board member Neil Slevin absent, puts Mr. Bialsky one step closer to closing on a deal to sell land he owns at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road to Southampton Town for $10.5 million. The money will come from the town’s Community Preservation Fund, and the property is slated to become Sag Harbor’s long-anticipated John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.

Before the sale can officially close, Mr. Bialsky still needs approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, which is expected in the next two months. All that’s left in Sag Harbor’s regulatory process is approval from the Harbor Committee, which indicated in a straw poll earlier this month it would approve the project in April.

“We’re very happy with the approval and the process moving forward,” Mr. Bialsky said Wednesday.

The proposal for the three townhouses at 2 West Water Street once totaled 27,740 square feet in size; as of right, there were eight residential units and four commercial spaces grandfathered into its previous use. However, plans were scaled down in increments to come in collectively at about 21,800 square feet.

Mr. Bialsky’s team must address two final issues: how to properly drain each unit’s rooftop pool, and a signature on the plans from Mr. Bialsky himself to certify he understands each stipulation. The planning board’s approval is conditional upon those two matters.

The board postponed approving the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center’s updated plans. Board attorney Denise Schoen said two issues stood in the way: the planning board does not have the most recent set of building plans, and the cinema team needs to secure signage from the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees along the rear lot line of its property on Meadow Street that say, “no stopping, no standing, no parking.” Ms. Schoen explained the latter issue pertains to New York State building codes for fire safety.

“The way the fire code reads, it says you have to have one access point kept open for fire trucks,” she said. “If it was a busy summer, Main Street might be insane. That’s a real issue. If it was filled with cars, they wouldn’t be able to use ladder trucks and we’d really need Meadow Street.”

Attorney Christopher Kelley, representing the cinema, on Wednesday called the outstanding issues “minor.”

“My position is that we just want to get the approval,” he said. “The village can do whatever it wants when it wants — there’s already no parking permitted on Meadow Street — and the final plans were already submitted to the architectural review board and approved, but I guess they didn’t make it over to the planning board.”

The board voted 4-0 to table the cinema decision to its April 21 meeting, when it will again have a new or interim chairman. John Shaka, who presided over meetings since December 20, tendered his resignation effective April 1, as he will be moving overseas for an extended period of time.

“We’re going to miss your leadership and your intelligence,” board member Larry Perrine told him on Tuesday.

“It was my pleasure working with you and I wish I was here longer,” Mr. Shaka replied.

The planning board also held a hearing on Angela De Vincenzo’s request for a special exception use permit to add her tutoring business to the existing gallery space she recently leased at 17 Washington Street, called Blocks, Trucks and Art.

During the board’s work session, consultant Kathy Eiseman said, “Our only comment was we wanted the fire marshal to take a look at it. He did, and [the report] was four pages, but it was all good.”

The board liked Ms. De Vincenzo’s proposal and indicated it would approve a written decision on the permit in April.