The Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals heard plans for a new catering hall above the restaurant Page at 63 Main for the first time on Tuesday, January 19, and some board members indicated that they were hesitant to grant the variances that would allow the proposal to move forward, with the chairman questioning the assertion that a catering hall was needed downtown.
The plan calls for replacing the second-floor apartment at 63 Main Street with “Page Hall,” a catering facility for up to 80 guests, and adding an entrance at the rear of the building with a pavilion. The applicant’s attorney, Tiffany Scarlato, told the board that it would be “a really much needed, purpose-driven event space in the village business district.”
Ms. Scarlato said the restaurant hosts a number of private events every year, including for the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the Steinbeck Fund, Catholic Charities, schools, and the YMCA, as well as political functions, and pre-pandemic had taken on “a tremendous number of reservations.”
“Currently, the demand is far more than can be accommodated in the village at Page restaurant,” she added.
Planned changes to the building include a new commercial kitchen, wet service bar, 80-person dining hall and restroom on the second floor, plus a new entryway on Division Street with an elevator, a staircase, a coat check and a restroom. The patio and cafe at the rear side of the building known as Back Page would be eliminated under the plan to accommodate the new entryway, Ms. Scarlato noted.
The proposed entryway would be dubbed “The Sag Harbor Experience.” Ms. Scarlato explained it would give guests a look into Sag Harbor history, including the historic jail next door.
“We believe that repurposing will be an overall value add for the village and the residents and the workforce,” she said, acknowledging that there are a “tremendous number” of variances requested. She also informed the board that she is negotiating with neighboring property owners about leasing parking areas.
Walking the board through the plans, architect Sal Cicerelli showed that the existing second floor would expand, with the service bar going where rooftop mechanicals are now and the new kitchen going in the space currently occupied by a rooftop hydroponic garden. At ground level, a covered pavilion would greet guests.
The gross floor area of 63 Main Street would increase by more than a third, from 6,001 square feet to 8,143 square feet. According to the ZBA agenda, “the maximum gross floor area of any use shall not exceed 2,000 square feet.”
Mr. Cicerelli said further variances would be required because the building already has a zero-foot side yard setback; 5 feet is required.
The building coverage would grow to 77.9 percent, from 70.2 percent, where only 70 percent is allowed, and the lot coverage would grow to 98.8 percent, from 87 percent, where 70 percent is allowed.
Under code, 67 off-street parking spaces are required, while one new space is proposed and 49 spaces are grandfathered, so the applicant is asking the ZBA to waive the last 17 spaces.
ZBA Chairman Tim McGuire raised the concern that events at a catering hall, such as wedding receptions, have a specific start time. “When there’s an event, everyone arrives at exactly the same time,” he said, calling parking for a catering hall “more than the normal burden” and closer to that of a movie theater.
“It occurs to me that our Main Street area is pretty dense with activity right now,” Mr. McGuire said to Ms. Scarlato, “and while you stated that one thing that we don’t have is a catering hall … there’s a reason for that … it’s not an appropriate addition to an area that is already very intense.
“Typically, catering halls are separate buildings that are surrounded by a large parking lot,” he continued. “They are not squeezed into the middle of downtown areas. So as we go over the variances and also listen and follow what the Planning Board does, I, myself, am going to be particularly interested in how we deal with that intense parking need that happens in a short period of time.”
A bigger issue will be the increase in use and density with an area that is already pretty compact and densely used, he added.
Ms. Scarlato said scheduled events at a catering hall are parallel to when there are many 6 p.m. dinner reservations in the village at the same time, and she noted that charter boats with scheduled departures have permission to leave from the village.
She added that it seems to be unfair that business property owners are tagged for parking variance requests when there are other activities that require parking but are relatively unaddressed.
ZBA member Scott Baker wanted to know what would happen when 80 guests try to be dropped off at the entrance on Division Street at the same time, potentially clogging the street.
Mr. McGuire noted that the ZBA can only rule on parking variances with written input from the Planning Board. The ZBA decision will also hinge on a State Environmental Quality Review Act process that the Planning Board will be in charge of.
When the discussion opened up to public comment, Nada Berry, the proprietor of the Wharf Shop, addressed the board. “We have a problem already with the parking that goes on of the trucks that deliver to Page,” she said. “It blocks up the traffic.”
There is one parking spot for Page, but when someone occasionally parks in it, the sidewalk is inevitably blocked, and pedestrians must walk in the street to get by, she added.
“Any future dropping off in that area, whatsoever, is also obstructing the view for all of us who need to get out onto Division Street from behind our properties,” she concluded.
Kimberly Eads told the board that she owns the second-floor unit at 69 Main Street, which has two windows that overlook the first story of Page. The view is not great, but the unit does get a lot of natural light, she said. “I’m very concerned about the application and its effect on those two rooms we have back there with the windows, and I would like to understand how Page could be approved for the relief for a 5-foot setback while severely impacting our property.”
Mr. McGuire said the public comments will be taken into consideration, and noted that the conversation will be ongoing over the next several meetings of the ZBA while also being discussed by the Planning Board.