Sag Harbor ZBA Adjourns Schiavoni Request For Moratorium Waiver After Objections Raised

The Schiavoni property on Long Island Avenue remains vacant. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

A month ago, the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals seemed ready to grant the Schiavoni family an exemption from a moratorium on most waterfront projects in the village. The building freeze was first enacted last year as village planners began work on a new waterfront zoning district to better guide future development.

But on Tuesday night, after two attorneys representing neighboring property owners raised objections, the ZBA adjourned the request until its October 19 meeting.

David Schiavoni and his parents, Gabe and Diane Schiavoni, have proposed a new building at 31 Long Island Avenue under the name VACS Enterprises, Inc. to replace an earlier building that was torn down when National Grid began an extensive environmental remediation of the neighboring gas ball parking lot.

Then village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. had assured the family that they would be given a building permit to replace their building exactly as it was, but over the past decade they have sought permission to build a variety of different structures. Most recently, they have proposed a building that is significantly taller than the one that was formerly on the site and have indicated they would return for permission to legally use a second floor that is part of the design.

The family has indicated that it has a deal to lease the first floor for a new 7-Eleven store to replace the one that was formerly across the street in the West Water Street Shops building that is currently being considered as the future home of Bay Street Theater.

Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, representing 11 Bridge Street LLC and other neighboring properties that are controlled or associated with Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, urged the ZBA to deny the exemption.

She said her clients did not object to a building on the site. “What we don’t want is a building with a large use and a building that was designed by a corporation for a corporate store use,” she said, while adding that the proposed convenience store is not currently allowed in the Office District anyway.

She said approving the proposed building, which is centrally located in the area being considered for zoning changes, “would overturn everything this village is trying to do.”

She also questioned if Mr. Thiele had the legal authority to guarantee the Schiavonis permission to rebuild, arguing that was the authority of the building inspector.

Alex Kriegsman, representing Sag Harbor Development Holdings and JAB 2 West Water Street, three condos that were developed by Jay Bialsky, also sought to head off the exemption.

“The whole point of the moratorium is to prevent these properties from being approved for development” until the village completes its waterfront study, he said. He likened an approval to an effort “to throw out the baby with the bath water.”

The Schiavonis’ attorney, Dennis Downes, objected to both attorneys, telling the ZBA they represented competitors and stating that the family had waited patiently more than a decade to be given the green light. “If ever there was a case that cries out for relief, this is it,” he said.

But ZBA chairman Val Florio said both attorneys had raised issues that his board needed to consider before issuing a final ruling and asked that the matter be put off again.

On Wednesday morning, David Schiavoni said he was upset by the ruling, but would continue to fight for his property rights. He said the real objection to the plan for the property was that it is going to be used for a 7-Eleven. “I wouldn’t want to be across from a 7-Eleven, either,” he said.