Sag Harbor’s SANS Communities Call For Zoning Protections

Girls on the beach in the SANS area circa, 1969.

Residents of Azurest, Sag Harbor Hills and Ninevah Beach, Sag Harbor’s historically African American communities, have formally asked Sag Harbor Village to create a special zoning district for the three communities with the goal of preserving their character while protecting the property rights of homeowners.

The zoning proposal was developed by the Tri-Community Working Group, which has been working since March on finding a mutually acceptable solution that would prevent unfettered development but not unfairly restrict homeowners from benefiting from rising property values that they say the restrictions of a historic district would do.

Property owners voted overwhelmingly for the proposal, agreeing to the idea by a 204-10 vote. The 214 people who voted represented two-thirds of the residents of the three communities.

A group of committee members announced the effort in a letter submitted to The Sag Harbor Express this week.

Errol Taylor, the president of the Ninevah Beach Property Owners Association, said the idea for a special zoning district emerged as residents saw their once quiet enclaves get targeted by developers who purchased vacant lots or dilapidated homes and redeveloped them.

Early community conversations focused primarily on the idea of creating a historic district to protect the neighborhoods, but Mr. Taylor said many homeowners objected to the idea.

While historic districts are typically said to lead to higher property values, Mr. Taylor said many residents did not believe that would the case in their communities if homeowners were not allowed to demolish modest houses on rapidly appreciating property.

The proposed zoning district, which has yet to be reviewed by the Village Board, would allow homeowners to continue to make exterior home improvements as allowed by the existing code; would facilitate better community representation on village boards; would call for regularized and enhanced code enforcement to address issues such as derelict houses; would assure ample neighbor notification regarding proposed construction and renovation; and would maintain the wooded nature of the communities, among other provisions.

Mayor Jim Larocca said on Tuesday he had been in contact with members of the committee, but said he had not had an opportunity to review their final proposal.