Sag Harbor Takes First Step In Updating Waterfront Zoning Code

Contractors began work this week on a project that will place permeable pavement along Marine Park in Sag Harbor. The goal will be to collect and retain runoff during heay rains to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the bay. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

The high-speed effort to update the Sag Harbor Village zoning code to better protect the village waterfront before a recently enacted six-month moratorium expires was the central topic of the Village Board’s monthly work session meeting on October 28.

Marta Goldsmith, the director of the Forms Based Code Institute, presented the board with a basic vision statement that she and other planners involved in the effort pulled together from meetings with members of the village’s waterfront planning committee and various stakeholders.

That vision includes a sense of a village with “unique and eclectic charm” that is represented by a diversity of architectural styles and a largely open waterfront that welcomes public access to it, she said.

Village residents are also proud of the village’s status as a historic site and are eager to maintain it as both pedestrian-friendly and open to other forms of alternative transportation. Furthermore, residents identify the village as active year-round with first-floor commercial uses and second-floor apartments. The village has also shown a desire to encourage maritime businesses while retaining water quality, she said.

The next order of business is to review the existing code to analyze where it “may not get you to the vision that we understand you want your place to be,” she said. The final step will be to produce a list of recommendations to the code that will help the village achieve its goals by a mid-January deadline, she said.

She said planners would likely suggest the village adopt a forms based code for the study area only, noting that unlike a standard use-based code as is in place throughout the rest of the village, a forms based approach would help the “community define what public areas and the exteriors of buildings look like to create a place or preserve a place.”

Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said she would invite Ms. Goldsmith to appear at next week’s board meeting, which takes place at 6 p.m. on November 10, to explain to the general public the differences between a forms based code and a standard code that is based on specific uses as well as dimensional limits based on lot size.

Tim McGuire, the chairman of the village Zoning Board of Appeals, for one, said he welcomed a new way to review applications that is not based on a dimensional code. Because so many properties are already pre-existing, nonconforming, Mr. McGuire said the ZBA feels “hampered” in its review of individual applications.

“As I learn more and more what a forms based code is, it seems to me that it would be a wonderful tool for both our board, the Architectural Review Board, and the Planning Board to use to both encourage development of the waterfront but also do it in a way that will be sympathetic to the rest of the village,” he said.

Trustee Thomas Gardella said that the village should consider requiring that any properties developed along the waterfront pay to be hooked up to the village’s wastewater treatment plant. Trustee Aiden Corish, who serves as the board’s liaison to the plant, said he would review the village records to determine how many properties there are that are not yet connected and would hold a conference call with Ms. Goldsmith and village engineers to discuss the matter.

The discussion also prompted comments from Nat Egosi, the owner of the Sag Harbor Inn, who urged the village to expand the environmental aspect of the code to include sanitation, specifically by requiring developers to provide plans for eliminating litter and garbage. He also suggested that planning for the waterfront should recognize what he called events of historic significance that are patriotically commemorated, including the Fourth of July fireworks displays. Finally, he said the village should maintain the village’s value for recreation by providing opportunities for the village to access the water.

Planning Board Resignation

The board also accepted the resignation of Neil Slevin from the village Planning Board. “Neil has been a huge help to me and many mayors before me,” said Ms. Mulcahy, who added that he had served as the village’s “ambassador who goes out and finds people to work on these boards.”