Sag Harbor ZBA Adjourns Schiavoni Long Island Avenue Application For Another Month

The Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals has yet to rule on whether this property owned by the Schiavoni family and next to the Sag Harbor Post Office should receive an exemption from the waterfront moratorium. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

The Schiavoni family will have to wait at least another month before learning if the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals will grant them an exemption from a moratorium on most development in the proposed Waterfront Overlay District, so they can proceed with plans to reconstruct their building at 31 Long Island Avenue.

The ZBA, which has been weighing whether to grant the exemption since August, agreed on October 19 to close the record to all but written submissions. The Schiavonis’ attorney, Dennis Downes, and attorneys for neighboring property owners who oppose an exemption, Alex Kriegsman and Tiffany Scarlato, have until November 3 to submit additional arguments, with Downes being afforded an additional two weeks, until the ZBA’s next meeting, on November 16, to rebut any objections they raise.

When it first heard the application in August, the ZBA seemed poised to grant the family an exemption from the moratorium, even though the building they have proposed is not an exact replica of the building that formerly occupied the site. But last month, Scarlato and Kriegsman offered a number of objections, causing the board to reconsider its position.

The Schiavonis’ building was razed in 2008 when National Grid undertook an extensive remediation project to remove pollutants from the soil surrounding the gas ball property, but the family and their attorney, Dennis Downes, have argued that a letter from then village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. guaranteed them their property would be treated as a nonconforming, preexisting parcel that could be rebuilt with retail uses and not have to meet parking requirements.

In arguing for the exemption, Downes has taken the position that the Schiavoni property’s pre-existing, nonconforming status should qualify it for the exemption and furthermore, the family should be allowed to develop it with a retail use, even though the zoning has been changed over the years from Village Business to Office District.

David Schiavoni, an owner of the property, has stated the plan is to lease it to the 7-Eleven, which lost its lease in the Water Street Shops building across the street last spring when that building was purchased as a potential future home for Bay Street Theater.

But Kriegsman has argued to obtain an exemption, the Schiavonis have to show their application will not have any adverse effects on the goals the village hopes to achieve by imposing the moratorium in the first place and that it must be in harmony with the character of the village and any interim findings for the area being subjected to the zoning study.

Meanwhile, Scarlato has questioned whether Thiele, as village attorney, had the right to write the letter making promises to the Schiavoni family in the first place, arguing that was the purview of the building inspector.

“There’s no way in hell, Fred Thiele would have written that letter without having spoken to the trustees,” Downes said, when Scarlato brought up the objection again.

Board members, who were willing to concede that the Schiavoni family did, in fact, have some preexisting rights, could not agree that the application would not have adverse impacts on the village’s planning objectives and settled on the one-month extension for written comments.

Meanwhile, the Village Board is expected to have a revised Waterfront Overlay District law ready for adoption by the time the moratorium expires on February 28.