Sag Harbor Village Boards Reshuffle

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Tim McGuire, right, at a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals earlier this year. Christine Sampson photo

Facing severe side effects from treatment for melanoma, Tim McGuire resigned as chairman of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Zoning Appeals last week, accelerating a flurry of activity in Village Hall to fill vacancies on local panels.

Mr. McGuire hand-delivered a letter of resignation to Village Clerk Beth Kamper addressed to Mayor Sandra Schroeder on Friday, September 7. In August, former mayor and village trustee Greg Ferraris abruptly stepped down as chair of the Planning Board and as a member of the Ethics Board, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and focus on his accounting business.

The Sag Harbor Village Board filled Mr. Ferraris’s seat on the Planning Board at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, naming John Shaka to the panel after accepting Mr. Shaka’s resignation from the Harbor Committee, of which he was chairman.

Filling the vacancy left by Mr. McGuire, the board named former village trustee Robby Stein to the ZBA and also named him the panel’s chairman.

Also on Tuesday, the board named David Thommen to fill the vacancy on the Ethics Board; Neil Slevin to become chairman of the Planning Board, and Mary Ann Eddy to become chair of the Harbor Committee.

Mr. Shaka on Tuesday said in an interview he had been asked to “consider shifting over to the Planning Board a week or so ago,” decided it was “a good move, and the Harbor Committee was in good shape.”

Mr. Stein declined to comment when reached before his appointment on Tuesday.

In his resignation letter to the mayor, Mr. McGuire wrote, “My long-term outlook is good but the side effects of a preventative immunotherapy treatment I receive have proven unpredictable and sometimes severe. At this time, I must use my energies in that effort and do not have anything left for the ZBA.”

The mayor, who was out when he stopped by, soon responded with an email to Mr. McGuire offering him get-well wishes and thanking him “for all of your service and good work you have done for our village.”

Mr. McGuire, 72, said in an interview Monday that he was both relieved and regretful to leave the board. Speaking of the 2 West Water Street condominium project of developer Jay Bialsky, which is pending before the board with a request for nine variances, and the case of an oversize house proposed for Sag Harbor Hills, he said, “I find these things interesting and challenging. If it hadn’t been for this medical thing, I would be ashamed to be resigning after the first meeting” on the Bialsky application, which took place in August.

He flatly denied rumors that he had been asked to step down, which a friend told him were circulating, or that he had been pressured by elected officials to approve variances for the West Water Street condos, the fate which is tied to the village’s goal of turning the adjoining property owned by Mr. Bialsky into the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.

Mr. McGuire acknowledged he has met with elected officials to hear their views “over specific things” but didn’t consider that inappropriate. “Why wouldn’t we want to get their viewpoint?” he said of elected officials, then adding, “I know there are two sides to that.”

Mr. Shaka also said no one had ever pressured him on the 2 West Water Street application for a wetlands permit, which was filed only recently and has not yet been heard by the Harbor Committee.

An active boater and cyclist who is retired from the publishing industry, Mr. McGuire was appointed to the ZBA about five years ago, he said. His melanoma diagnosis came at about the same time, when a spot on his back was removed and turned out to have been cancerous and to have spread to a lymph node. He has undergone a total of four surgeries that he called “very minor” for the removal of lymph nodes, which has elevated the status of his diagnosis from Stage III to Stage IV.

He shows no signs of cancer, which qualified him to begin immunotherapy treatment in January with the newly approved drug Nivolumab. It is designed to block cancer cells from “turning off” the body’s own immunological response and may be able to prevent any recurrence of the disease, he explained.

The drug, which he received in monthly visits to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, can have serious, even fatal side-effects, including colitis, he said. He had no problems for six months but in early July he began to be impacted by side-effects.

“So while all this is going on, I’m asking myself what do I do about several things in my life,” he said, including his work on the board. “For me, it’s when it’s complicated and difficult at the ZBA … that’s the part that I like. It reminds me of my professional career,” working with people to solve problems. But with his health concerns, “I said I can’t go into this complicated zoning … it’s just too much.”

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Peter Boody is news editor of The Sag Harbor Express. Previously he was the editor of the Southampton Press for many years and also edited several other papers, including the Shelter Island Reporter and the East Hampton Press, of which he was founding editor. He was a regular correspondent for the New York Times Long Island section and wrote the novel “Thomas Jefferson, Rachel & Me.”