Sag Harbor Village Board Poised To Adopt Waterfront Moratorium

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Sag Harbor Village will impose a six-month moratorium over much of its waterfront later this month. COURTESY SAG HARBOR VILLAGE

Barring last-minute surprises, the Sag Harbor Village Board will impose a six-month moratorium covering major development projects along a swath of the village waterfront, extending from the Cormaria retreat center on Bay Street to the village mooring area off West Water Street, later this month.

Village officials say the moratorium is needed to give planners time to come up with proposals to help shape long-term development in an area that gives the village much of its charm and identity.

After a subdued hearing Tuesday night, the board agreed to accept written comments for 10 days with an eye toward adopting the moratorium at its next work session on September 23.

Board members stressed once again that they wanted to complete the planning study and have concrete proposals in hand that can be added to the zoning code by the end of that six-month schedule, even though they acknowledged it will be difficult.

Trustee Thomas Gardella, who has been the most skeptical of the process, said he wanted to make sure “we stick to that timeframe,” and referred to the Village Board’s effort to revise its waterways law, which was the subject of a hearing in March and is still undergoing adjustments, as an example of the pitfalls that need to be avoided.

Trustee Robert Plumb, who submitted a memo outlining some goals he thought the board should achieve, said, “We are agreeing to a hard finish” on the process and acknowledged that at the end of the day it is likely not everybody will be happy with the finished product.

“The schedule is an ambitious one for this kind of undertaking, and I think that is a good way to go,” added Trustee James Larocca.

Trustee Aidan Corish, who said the process would help define the village for decades to come, called for the board to adopt a schedule that would set specific goals as it heads toward the finish line.

“For this to be successful, everyone has to feel and believe and know they have a real part in shaping the most important aspect of our village forever, to a large degree,” he said.

That, in fact, is the plan, responded Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, who said the village’s consultants on the project have proposed to complete a vision statement within a month of the moratorium being enacted, a “diagnostic” of the existing code a month later, and proposals for code changes a month after that.

Under that schedule, she said the board might be ready to begin debating a final product by year’s end.

Planning consultants Kathy Eiseman of Nelson, Pope and Voorhis, and Marta Goldsmith of the Formed Based Code Institute of Washington, D.C., agreed that while the deadline is daunting, they believed they could meet it.

The primary goal of the project is to “enhance the historic qualities of the village downtown and waterfront areas, including the diverse mix of uses” that define the village. A second seeks to protect views of the water, while a third aims to maintain and protect natural light.

Mr. Plum, in his memo to the board, offered a number of suggestions, including ways to limit the impact of height, width, and mass of proposed buildings, protect access easements to the waterfront, address parking issues, usage, and the need for new development to be connected to the village sewage treatment plant.

A draft summary of goals for the study as well as Mr. Plumb’s memo have been uploaded to the village’s website, sagharborny.gov, and can be found under the heading Village News.
Tuesday’s hearing heard from only two speakers. Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, who represents the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, said it appeared many of the proposals would be more accurately applied to the village business district, and added that she did not believe village officials were voicing clear objectives for their decision to impose a moratorium.

Robert Camerino, a member of the board of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, also questioned the need for the moratorium, arguing that the waterside of Bay Street, at least, should be exempt from it because about half the property is owned by the village. Besides, he said, “It’s not that there are any gray areas. It is very clear what’s allowable and what’s not.”

“That’s the case, but not everyone agrees that what’s allowed is a good idea, frankly,” Mr. Plumb replied.

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