Village Proposes Changes to Sag Harbor Zoning Code

Katie Plumb addresses the board during the public comments portion of a Sag Harbor Village Board work session on Saturday, 10/26/19. Michael Heller photo

The Sag Harbor Village Board introduced two changes to its zoning code on Saturday that Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said would better protect against the destruction of the village’s natural environment and help define the code more clearly when it comes to the allowed height of structures.

“The general effort is to tighten up applications,” explained Trustee Bob Plumb, the board liaison to the Building Department, at the work session on Saturday morning. Both laws will be reintroduced publicly when the board meets on Tuesday, November 12, at 6 p.m.

The first amendment would change the definition of “height” for buildings and other structures in a way to make the measurement more “accurate,” according to the proposed law. Presently, the definition measures height from only one side of the building. The new definition would measure height “at any point of the building to existing grade that may exist around the structure.”

“The new definition ensures that the true highest point of the building is considered to be its ‘height’ for purposes of determining whether maximum height limits are met,” reads the proposal.

The second law creates a new section of the code that limits the amount of native vegetation that can be removed from a vacant lot.

“In recent years, the village has routinely witnessed the removal of 100 percent of native/natural vegetation when vacant lots are cleared in preparation of new dwellings,” reads the intent of the new code. With approximately 20 vacant lots remaining in the village, the new code aims to protect those remaining properties from being clear-cut by limiting clearing to 50 percent of a lot’s coverage.

“The importance of retaining our native/natural vegetation cannot be understated,” reads the proposed law. “Trees and their understory have traditionally acted as visual unifying elements for residential dwelling units. Natural vegetation promotes the aesthetics of the built environment, preserves the character of neighborhoods, both commercial and residential, and enhances the overall appearance of properties.”

The law also notes the environmental benefits of natural vegetation. The clearing restriction will apply only to properties in residentially zoned portions of the village and applies not only to trees but all natural vegetation including understory and groundcover.