Just a few weeks ago, the Schiavoni family’s proposed two-story office and retail building at 31 Long Island Avenue seemed on track after years of review for site plan approval from the Sag Harbor Planning Board as well as its support for three offstreet parking variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
But on February 24, when the Planning Board discussed it at a work session, the process hit a wall as the board’s chair and planning consultant announced that a major problem had been discovered in the Schiavonis’ application.
“Essentially what’s going on is that there’s an incorrect calculation for the number of parking variances required,” board chair Kay P. Lawson said, adding there are “also other questions on the site plan.”
The board’s environmental consultant, Kathy Eiseman of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, said she had discovered that agents for the Schiavonis who had prepared the plans had used “net area instead of gross floor area” to calculate the number of offstreet parking spaces required. “It needs to be set based on GFA (gross floor area),” she said, which “does not allow excluding common areas” such as hallways, bathrooms and elevators.
In the works for years after the Schiavonis had to tear down an aging single-story retail building in 2008 to clear the way for a major Keyspan-National Grid groundwater pollution cleanup on an adjacent parcel, the proposal has been percolating before the board for years and gone through several tweaks since 2017 to reduce its impact.
The zoning code requires one on-site parking space for every 200 square feet of gross floor area in retail buildings and office buildings. The VACS Enterprises application — VACS are the initials of Gabe and Diane Schiavoni’s children — calls for four retails stores on the first floor and four offices on the second floor. As originally proposed in 2017, the first floor was to contain 4,569 square feet and the second floor 5,318; those numbers have been tweaked as the project has been scaled back.
It appeared in late January that only three off-street parking waivers were needed after village planning consultant Chick Voorhis had worked with the Schiavonis to increase the number of spaces available on the site to 10; that boost, plus credit for what their attorney Dennis Downes has argued are “grandfathered” parking waivers running with the property, lowered the variance request to three spaces.
Now, the actual number needed won’t be known until a new, corrected application is filed.
“So I think … the applicant must revise the plans and the numbers; then we’ll review and talk about that and then give our recommendation to the ZBA,” Ms. Lawson said on February 24.
Two months before, she had insisted that the Schiavonis find a way to increase the parking available on site and reduce the need for the 10-space variance then requested. It was during that discussion that Mr. Voorhis, after studying the plan, said he saw a way to do just that.
Calling it “a frustration” at the February 24 meeting, Gabe and Diane’s son, Dave Schiavoni, who identified himself as the owner of the vacant lot next to the post office at 31 Long Island Avenue, added, “We think we’re ready to build and we’re back to where we started.” He told the board the family would “appreciate anything you can do for us.” He identified the project engineer as the agent who had made the miscalculation.
Gabe Schiavoni also took the podium to make a plea. “I’ll be able to put in a phone booth and sell M&Ms by the time you get through with us,” he said before asking the board to give the case “special consideration.”
Mr. Downes was away and did not attend the February 24 discussion.