Sag Harbor Weighs Waterfront Moratorium Tuesday

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Sag Harbor Village will consider a six-month moratorium along its waterfront at a hearing on September 8. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

The Sag Harbor Village Board will hold a hearing on Tuesday, September 8, on a proposed six-month moratorium on major development over much of its waterfront while planners study ways to update the zoning code to more accurately reflect long-term goals to protect both visual and pedestrian access to the village’s most valuable resource.

The proposal, first aired last month, comes after Planning Board and Zoning Board members expressed concerns that the village zoning code is outdated in its reliance on formulaic size limits for building size and the number of parking spaces required.

The board initially proposed a moratorium that would cover all waterfront-zoned property as well as the Main Street business district, but it decided to scale back those plans, dropping the business district from the area to be studied in a bid to make it more likely it will be able to come up with some concrete proposals within the six-month timeframe.

“There are two different sets of goals and objectives,” Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said this week. “We want this to focus on the waterfront and the zoning laws and code changes to be driven by the goals for the waterfront.” She said the village would take up parking issues and development in the business district after this project is completed.

In addition, rather than solicit bids for the undertaking, the board has opted instead to assign the work to its in-house planning consultants, Nelson, Pope and Voorhis, and the Form Based Code Institute of Washington, D.C., on a professional services basis. Mayor Mulcahy said she had been advised the arrangement is allowed, provided the expenditure does not exceed $50,000.

Board members have largely supported the proposed zoning study, although Trustee Thomas Gardella has expressed misgivings about imposing a moratorium, arguing it could unnecessarily obstruct some property owners from undertaking projects, but the mayor and village attorney Denise Schoen have said minor projects will be allowed to proceed and the village’s regulatory boards will be allowed to continue to renew projects in the pipeline, just not issue final approvals.

“People feel threatened as soon as you mention moratorium,” the mayor said, stressing the need for the village to complete its work in a timely manner. Five years ago, when the village revamped its code to restrict house sizes on a formula based on the size of their lot, the move generated intense opposition, as well as lawsuits.

Ms. Mulcahy said she and Trustee Bob Plumb, a former member of the village Zoning Board of Appeals, will present an outline of issues they want the planners to focus on when the board opens its hearing on Tuesday.

The study will be done by Bonnie Fransen and Valerie Monastra of Nelson, Pope, and Voorhis, along with Kathy Eiseman, a partner and manager of the firm’s environmental and community planning division. They will be joined by Marta Goldsmith, the director of the Form Based Plan Institute.

Form based planning is an approach to planning that seeks to replace hard and fast dimensional regulations for a given zoning district with a range of general design choices contained in a “pattern book” that aims at producing a streetscape that reflects an agreed upon community vision. The planning approach has become popular in recent years and was used by Southampton Town when it conducted a planning study for Hampton Bays.

The board’s meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Due to restrictions on social gatherings, the board is conducting its meetings over Zoom. Information about how to sign up can be obtained at the village website, sagharborvillageny.gov, or by calling the village at 631-725-0222.

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