By Christine Sampson
The Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday began tackling a pile of hefty variance requests from Greystone Development plus a rather large elephant in the municipal meeting room: whether to approve those variances for a proposed condominium complex without knowing the future of the parkland parcel that Greystone is in talks to sell to Southampton Town via the Community Preservation Fund.
“We don’t want to use the word ‘contingent’ that a park gets built,” ZBA chairman Tim McGuire told Dennis Downes, Greystone’s attorney, and Angelo Laino, an engineer with VHB, Greystone’s engineering firm.
But that’s how the conversation trended Tuesday, with Mr. McGuire also saying he did not want the board “to feel like we’re kicking the concept of the park down the road.”
Greystone owns 1.94 waterfront acres on two adjacent properties, 2 West Water Street and 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road, which it is seeking to carve into a .69-acre site for a condominium complex and a 1.25-acre parcel to possibly sell to the town as parkland. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman recently said Greystone has already rejected one offer from the town, and that the town is on the cusp of commissioning another set of appraisals for the property.
Mr. McGuire prefaced a discussion of Greystone’s five variance requests by asking Mr. Downes to make a case that there is a benefit to the public in building the proposed 13-unit condo complex at 2 West Water Street that would also include an underground parking garage, rooftop pool and 13 boat slips for the eventual use by the units’ owners.
“The benefit to the community is that without these variances and other approvals from the village, there is no possibility of selling the property to the village for the park,” Mr. Downes said. “I can’t answer the question of where we are in the process, but my clients stand firmly for the proposition that we want to sell the remainder of 1, 3, 5 Ferry Road for the park.”
Mr. McGuire, however, pointed out that “that deal may never get made. Some people may be willing to cross their fingers and hope.”
Susan Mead, the ZBA’s alternate member, added, “We have to get this right. This is probably the most important thing that we’ll do on this board for years to come, in my opinion, and I’d like to see it done right.”
According to a letter from Sag Harbor building inspector Tom Preiato, Greystone has eight residential units and four commercial units grandfathered into the property based on previous uses. A proposed lot line modification, moving the line of 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road slightly to expand 2 West Water Street, would give the development ability to add one more condo unit.
Mr. McGuire described the five variances Greystone is seeking as “massive.”
They include a lot area variance of 26,040 square feet, a figure that is drawn from the conversion of the four commercial units to residential use. Rear-yard setbacks, of which there are two because of the way the building would be situated between the water and the street, would be 0 feet and 11.1 feet, where 40 feet is required in each instance. That means variances of 40 feet and 28.9 feet are requested for the rear-yard setbacks. Side-yard setback variances of 2 feet on the east side and 17 feet on the west side are also requested.
Greystone is also seeking a variance to build a three-story building in a district where only two stories are permitted. The developer also wants to build a 48.5-foot-tall building, where 35 feet is permitted, so a variance of 13.5 feet is requested. Mr. Downes noted the height of the proposed building is only 3 feet higher than the original building.
The proposed building is a 36,564-square-foot complex, with its units to be marketed as vacation homes, according to a February 24 memo from a Sag Harbor Planning Board consultant. The plan calls for retaining several on-street parking spots in front of the complex.
“There’s a lot of building to squeeze into that spot,” ZBA member Bob Plumb said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of cars. That’s a major impact on the neighborhood.”
“I really don’t consider that” a major impact, Mr. Downes said. “The library added 7,000 square feet to a building that had no parking, and the ZBA made a decision that the parking on the street could be used for the off-street parking it required.”
Ms. Mead responded by saying the library’s benefit to the public “is huge.”
“The park is huge. There’s no other waterfront property left,” Mr. Downes replied.
“We knew the library would happen,” Ms. Mead said.
The ZBA ultimately tabled the Greystone variances to its September 19 meeting with a request for clarification on some of the dimensions of the building — along with a plea to the developer to agree to language in a potential ZBA approval that would tie the variances to a potential park. If CPF negotiations fall through and no sale takes place, Mr. McGuire said, the language could include instructions for the developer to come back to the ZBA and take up the variance requests a second time.
“See if there’s a way to come back creatively so that there’s some assurance we can put in our decision that if we were to grant these variances there will be a public area, whoever owns it,” he told Mr. Downes.