Save Sag Harbor Highlights 2013

Once again, we would like to update you, our members, on some of Save Sag Harbor’s activities this past year.

You will remember that we actively supported the passage of the Sag Harbor Village’s Commercial District Zoning Code through research, community outreach, petitions and fundraising events. The Zoning Code is the most effective tool we have in controlling overdevelopment and maintaining the vibrancy of our business/retail environment. Since its passage it has proven to be an excellent planning guide for village trustees, village boards, architects, owners, etc. While various provisions will be challenged over time, our Commercial District Zoning Code has already demonstrated its usefulness.


Harbor Heights Redevelopment


One recent -and major--challenge to the Code has been the proposed redevelopment of the Harbor Heights gas station on Route 114, the gateway to our Village and in the historic district of Eastville. 


When the owners, Petroleum Ventures, asked the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals for 16  variances of the code in June 2011 -- on everything from lighting and canopy height to protective vegetative buffers to the size of a new convenience store almost double the code's specification -- It was not only a direct frontal assault on the code but a significant threat to the scale and fabric of our Village. 


Save Sag Harbor was also concerned about the impact this expansion would have on the surrounding neighborhood since it is adjacent to Sag Harbor's historic Eastville district and to the St. David's A.M.E Zion Church.


For three years, Save Sag Harbor and our lawyer Jeff Bragman worked to clarify the development issues involved, educate Village residents about the issues,  and galvanize opposition to this expansion that did not comply with the Village's Zoning Code. The residents of Sag Harbor coalesced behind our efforts.


In February of 2014 the Zoning Board of Appeals issued its formal vote on the matter, and, in a tremendous endorsement of the Code, essentially agreed with the position of Save Sag Harbor: developers need to stick to the Village Code. The multiple variances requested by the Harbor Heights developer were denied with the exception of one. This is a huge win for all of Sag Harbor. With this vote, by enforcing the terms of the Village Code, the ZBA  took a major step in preserving the historic Eastville neighborhood, and in protecting the character of our Village. 


The ZBA's decision is also a clear signal to future developers that they are expected to submit plans that are within the provisions of the Code.


Watchcase/Cape Advisors/ARB


2013 was a year when the work of Sag Harbor's Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board came into greater focus. Last spring Save Sag Harbor was contacted by many people in the village concerning the scale of, and some of materials used on, the Watchcase townhouses at Sage and Church Streets.  We followed up and, after several productive meetings with Cape Advisors' lead designer and project manager, some modifications were made, with some additional alterations possible in 2014. 


One of the lessons for the future was apparent: that creating scale models in context with the surrounding buildings is a necessary step in the building application process to determine a development's true impact.


Following is an excerpt of a Save Sag Harbor letter that was read at an ARB meeting in October 2013, and subsequently published in The Sag Harbor Express. It outlines our position on this important matter:


"... our organization supported the restoration and redevelopment of this property (The Bulova Watchcase Factory). It is perhaps the most important redevelopment project in Sag Harbor's history... That said, the construction of the townhouses has been more than disappointing. The scale is too big for the surrounding property, the materials surprisingly inappropriate for a 300 year old historic Village that is a locally and nationally designated historic district. The use of predominantly synthetic materials on the doors, roofs, chimneys and facades is particularly surprising in light of the criteria guiding the ARB decisions regarding others' building applications which expressly states that synthetic materials should be avoided. The use of aluminum windows also seems inappropriate."


While we understand the difficulty in fixing these problems at this late date, we hope  the developer can improve the situation by using more appropriate facade, window, door and roof materials since it is too late to correct the scale of the townhouses.


Second, we would like to suggest a method to deal with the application of the criteria by the ARB in the future. New materials have come on the market that homeowners and developers alike would like to use. It is also clear to us that there are various qualities of these new materials, some good, some not so good. We suggest the following course of action may be appropriate:


1. Policies developed by professional architects and other historic preservation professionals (the Village has given the ARB the ability to request application fees to include professional review of applications it appears).

2. Publication of these policies and holding of public hearings by the ARB on these proposed policies.

3. Adoption of these policies by the ARB .

4. Equal application of these policies, ie the criteria does not include the use of synthetic material and if this is appropriate for all building facades, particularly facing the street and other public ways, then all applicants should be required to comply which would hopefully result in consistent and uniform enforcement..."


Our concerns were heard, and a special presentation by Julian Adams, Director, Bureau of Community Preservation Services of the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation was made at the ARB meeting on March 24th, 2014 to address "best practices" for renovation and new construction in an historic district.


As recently reported by the Sag Harbor Express:


 "Retain, Repair, Replace" is the mantra used by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation when it comes to materials and features on historic residences and commercial structures, and in historic districts like Sag Harbor Village. After meeting with Julian Adams, the director of that office's bureau of community preservation services, the village's Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board will likely consider adopting a similar mantra, and may consider changing its rules to allow more leniency in specific cases where homeowners or businesses ask to use materials like aluminum clad windows or composite siding."

Rigorous application of historic district standards, and ongoing education and training within Sag Harbor's Historic Preservation and Architectural Review board are critical for preserving the character  of our beautiful historic streets and neighborhoods.


Baron's Cove

We have been keeping abreast of the new restaurant at Baron's Cove in order to avoid a repeat of the nightclub, Rocco's, which was a point of bitter contention for the surrounding neighborhood for many years. 


Several of our Board members met with the developers, Cape Advisors, during their initial planning sessions and followed up with them once the building began. 


We are glad the restaurant is now facing the water and we have been assured it will be low key, with contractual assurances of music and bar curfews.



Future Developments



We believe that as a result of our diligence in upholding the Zoning Code, several prospective developers have called the Save Sag Harbor Board in the last year. 


They have asked us to meet with them to review their plans before anything is formally submitted to the Village Boards. 



We are grateful for their outreach and to be able to offer insights before plans are filed.


Serve Sag Harbor


Serve Sag Harbor, founded by some members of Save Sag Harbor, received its not-for-profit 501(c)3 designation in the past year. 


It has an independent board of directors and is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the quality of life in Sag Harbor through activities and programs.


These include fundraising for education, historic preservation of the built environment, preservation of the natural environment, and related social and economic concerns, such as affordable housing and support for locally-owned small businesses.  


Serve Sag Harbor is off to a great start with two important projects that affect our whole community: a Traffic Calming fund and a Preservation of Our Historic Waterfront fund. 


Donations to Serve Sag Harbor are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law. Local not-for-profit groups, including Save Sag Harbor, may apply to the organization for grants for eligible activities or projects.


Traffic Calming


In February 2013 Save Sag Harbor organized and sponsored a multi-modal Action Transport Workshop, open to the public and free of charge. The objective was to discuss ways that walking and cycling could be encouraged, and motorized traffic be calmed, in the village. Participants engaged in group exercises, identifying areas of the village they perceived as needing improvement and discussing possible solutions. All of this was summarized in a report for Save Sag Harbor by urban planner and local resident Jonas Hagen, who led the workshop.


In the fall of 2013, SSH joined with newly- formed Serve Sag Harbor to present this report to the Village Board. Resulting from that presentation was the formation of an ad hoc traffic committee which meets regularly in Village Hall. That group is now actively working on ways to address some of the transit issues identified in the Active Transport Workshop, and recommended solutions for some key areas to the Village Board on April 8th. 


We hope to see bike lanes drawn, and there will be temporary measures implemented for testing traffic calming in four key intersections this summer.




Last spring "Concerned Residents on Spring/Garden and Howard Streets" met with Representative Fred Thiele and Trustee Robby Stein after months of requesting that the Village Board address Village-wide drainage and flooding issues. 


A petition was suggested by Thiele and Stein and the group drew one up requesting a comprehensive review of drainage issues. 


Save Sag Harbor joined with the group and published the petition in our newsletter, leading to 184 signatures. In September Mayor Gilbride acknowledged that drainage was a pressing issue and contracted with the engineering firm D&B Engineers & Architects, Inc. to complete a two-phase review. Phase 1 details the existing drainage system. 


Phase 2 identifies deficiencies and provides recommendations along with cost estimates. Phase 2 was completed in January 2014 and the study was presented at a Village Board of Trustees work session on Thursday, February 6th. The study included the Rogers Street recharge basin, The Havens Beach watershed, Redwood, Notre Dame, Princeton, and South Redwood Roads, and Spring and Garden Streets.  The village has reached out to grant writer Jen Mesiano to see what funding would be available as all the projects would cost close to $3 million.  


Save Sag Harbor Board will be writing a letter to the village to follow up on this extremely important problem.  


Membership Drive


Save Sag Harbor launched its first annual supporting membership drive between Thanksgiving and Christmas this past year. 


We were deeply gratified that over two hundred of you responded generously to our fundraising newsletter eblasts and flyer in the Sag Harbor Express. 


It demonstrated an extraordinary groundswell of support for our organization among the community. 


For that we are deeply grateful and even more committed to furthering our work and safeguarding the Village code this coming year!


Raffle/Main Street Table


We conducted our first raffle this summer at our Main Street table. The Sag Harbor Cycle Company  generously donated a Village Cruiser bicycle loaded with accessories. 


Funds raised went to legal expenses for our defense of the Zoning Code in the Harbor Heights redevelopment application. 


And our Main Street table, where our Board members and volunteers sell T shirts, totes, caps, and water bottles on peak weekends in the summer, continues to be a lively source of conversation about ongoing Village issues. 


Come visit us this summer at our weekend table in front of the Sag Harbor Liquor Store and let us know what you are thinking!




 In support of independent Main Street businesses and the Chamber of Commerce we became a founding sponsor of HarborFrost and donated money to the annual festival for several years.

This year we sponsored an ad in The Express to draw crowds from near and far for the festivities, and for an active day of shopping on Main Street.

It was a fun event which reinvigorated not only Main Street in the depth of winter but our whole village. 


Newsletter `   

We continue to publish our popular weekly email newsletter which informs more than 1700 subscribers about newsworthy items and upcoming events in our Village. 


Last summer our longtime webmaster April Gornik was joined by Robert Cohen as our new newsletter editor. 


The Save Sag Harbor Board salutes April for her outstanding work on the newsletter over the last six years and Robert for his fine and dedicated continuation of the work this year!


Village Board Meetings

You may not be aware that we have several Save Sag Harbor representatives covering monthly Village Board meetings in order to keep abreast of important developments. 


On an "as needed" basis we include these reports (when given) in the newsletter


If you are interested in participating, please let us know! It is vital that as many people go to these board meetings as possible -whether it is to write up a report or just sit and listen. 


This is the best way to learn about the village!



Below are current and recent developments in the Village for your perusal:

To the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review

August 14, 2014

The Board of Save Sag Harbor, Inc. is becoming increasingly alarmed at the number and frequency of historic houses being demolished in the Village over the past two years. The Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review is THE advocate for the preservation of these important Village houses. It is certainly not the Board’s role to  make it easier -- or less expensive -- for the builders or owners to tear down and reconstruct these historic houses.  Indeed, we applaud Chairperson Cee Brown’s comments to an applicant at a recent Board meeting, essentially advocating this very same opinion.

The trend we have witnessed is for the owners of houses in the historic district - or their representatives - to seek permission to restore/remodel the structure.  At a later date, the representative returns to the ARB and requests much more substantial removal of original building material, or worse yet, complete demolition.  It is our opinion that the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review is the Village’s front-line in the preservation of historic structures.  Any request to substantially change or remove historic material and structures should require the highest degree of  professional scrutiny, and the members of the Board should seek and be well guided by professional advice.

To that end we strongly encourage strict adherence to several sections of our Village Code:

Section 130-2:

A. “The Village board reviewing a given application and/or other or similar matter may, in review of any application which may come before it, refer such application presented to it to an engineer, environmental expert, planner or other professional consultant such as the reviewing board shall deem reasonably necessary to enable it to review such application as required by law...”

B. “...The applicant shall reimburse the Village for the cost of such professional consultant review services…”

Section 300-13.2

A. “...Whenever reasonably able to do so, the Board of Trustees shall seek to include within the membership of of this Board [the ARB] an architect familiar with local historic buildings and structures…”

H. “The Board of Trustees may designate a licensed architect to advise and take part in the deliberations (but without a vote) of the Board. The Board of Trustees may authorize other professional consultants, secretaries, clerks or such other personnel as may be necessary to assist the Board in carrying out its duties and powers. The Board of Trustees shall fix the compensation thereof and pay other expenses of the Board.”

It is important to note that by engaging a professional architect, engineer, or historical preservationist, the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review is the actual client of the professional, and the Village would be reimbursed for the associated cost by the applicant.  If the professional were hired directly by the applicant it would be questionable whether the Board could trust his or her opinion to be unbiased as the professional’s fiduciary responsibility is to its client.  

Preserving historic houses in Sag Harbor is an important and vital trust given to your Board. We fully understand the complexity of such a trust and urge you now, at what seems like a critical development juncture in our unique Village, to engage professional consultants as you are fully entitled to do under the Code.


The Board of Save Sag Harbor

To the Planning Board

RE:  Harbor Heights/Petroleum Ventures

August 21, 2014

Dear Mr. Ferraris and Board Members:

As you will recall, Save Sag Harbor was highly critical of the initial plans, submitted three years ago, to renovate the Harbor Heights gas station.  Our concern then centered on the fact that multiple variances from the Village Code were being sought and that the character and integrity of the neighborhood and the Village were threatened.  While we are pleased that the present plan for the Harbor Heights renovation largely conforms to Village Code, the Zoning Board of Appeals must review this plan to confirm that the specifications of its February 18, 2014 determination are met.  Indeed, it is our opinion that at least one variance is required for this plan and it is not yet being sought.

In the February determination, the ZBA noted: the “existing foundations and wood framed exterior walls of the structure are to remain. . . .”  ; and  that  the proposed convenience store, for which a variance was granted, would be “within the existing structure. . . .”  However, the applicant now proposes to remove this pre-existing, non-conforming building entirely, and build a completely new structure, with new foundation, walls and roof.  Removal of a pre-existing, non-conforming structure eliminates any legal rights to that non-conforming status.  If a new non-conforming structure is to be built, it will require a variance issued by the ZBA, and achieved by due process.   For purposes of precedent in the Village, we feel that it is important that proper procedures are followed and the public is allowed to offer comments accordingly.

Given our concerns, we respectfully request that the Planning Board refer this application to the Zoning Board of Appeals for comprehensive review and that proper variances are sought.


Board of Directors, Save Sag Harbor

To the Village Board of Trustees

August 21, 2014

Save Sag Harbor strongly endorses the initiative of Assistant Village Attorney Denise Schoen and Village Attorney Fred Thiele for a proposed wetlands development moratorium.

We agree that the Code needs to be revamped and that the Village’s wetlands need village- wide mapping, as well as greater oversight and protection. A moratorium will provide the time needed to study the issues and create a Code that addresses Sag Harbor’s expanding development pressures as they encroach on our precious wetlands and waterfront.

We hope this effort will have the full support of the Village Trustees.


The Board of Save Sag Harbor

To the Zoning Board of Appeals

August 13th 2014


Dear Zoning Board of Appeals,


When the Main Street Commercial district Zoning code was being updated in 2007-2009, Save Sag Harbor Inc.  threw its full weight behind the revamping of the code. While we appreciate the fact  that we have a wonderful, vibrant Main Street which is a mecca for the tourists who greatly support our economy, this cannot be at the expense of the area residents and local workers who rely on the services Main Street brings to our day-to-day living.  We were and we remain vigilant to prevent our Main Street from becominglike other villages in our area--overrun with chain stores and empty at night.  

Our mission states:   “Save Sag Harbor™ was started as a community-based effort to keep Sag Harbor from becoming overrun by big chain stores, and to make sure that family-and locally-owned businesses can continue to thrive here.  We want to protect the sustainability of Sag Harbor's many small stores and the social, cultural, and environmental aesthetics of the Village.”


Another essential aspect in revamping the code in 2007 was the concern that the whole street might one day be filled with real estate agencies. To this end, we want to bring to your attention the section of the code regarding intent, which follows at the end of this letter.

If the ZBA now permits the current number of real estate offices to be increased, it will be in opposition to this intent and set a precedent to allow exactly what we all--Village Government, residents, and Save Sag Harbor, Inc.--fought so hard to prevent in the first place.


Please  consider what it would mean to grant the landlord of the Sag Harbor Express building the right to rent to yet another real estate agency. We respectfully ask that the applicant find a more suitable tenant to take its place in order to help protect the sustainability of Sag Harbor's many small stores and the social, cultural, and environmental aesthetics of the Village.”


Save Sag Harbor is staunchly committed to dynamically shaping the Main Street where we all want to live, work and shop.  We ask that the ZBA and the owner of the Express building  join us in this endeavor!   


Respectfully submitted,

Mia Grosjean for Board of Save Sag Harbor, Inc.


Article VI. Village Business District

300-6.1. Intent


300.6.4.  VB District Special Conditions

Chapter 300. ZONING

Article VI. VB Village Business District

§ 300-6.1. Intent.

A. The Village Business District is the downtown central business district of the Village.

The district is intended for daily retail shoppíng, on-premises food consumption, and

visitor, tourist and resort shopping, all with a strong pedestrian orientation. A variety

of mixed retail uses is encouraged where feasible to provide the synergy necessary to

maintain the vitality and attractiveness of this district for the Village resident and

visitor alike. Also permitted are restaurants and similar eating places that rely on the

local resident population and downtown workers as well as visitors, tourists, and

resort vacationers for clientele.

B. The Village Board of Trustees seeks to promote the VB Village Business District as the

economic center of the Village, providing retail shopping for convenience goods as

well as for shoppers' goods, business services, and public and semi-public facilities.

Having determined that recreational activities and tourism are significant factors in

the Village's economic base, site plan review procedures and all other procedures that

influence the quality of land use and development in this district shall emphasize

accessibility for pedestrians as well as for vehicles, adequate off-street parking and an

attractive business center environment, including the provision of some landscaped

open space. A particular concern in site plan review shall be the coordination of

public accessways and views through properties in this district to the WF Waterfront

District and shoreline. Recognizing the potential intensity of the uses in this district,

provision shall be made for on-site storm drainage facilities, as needed to protect the

surface water quality of the natural water bodies, as well as for public water supply

and sewerage systems.


§300-6.4. VB District special conditions.

A. Minimum gross floor area of any use shall be no less than 800 square feet.

B. Maximum gross floor area of any use shall not exceed 2,000 square feet.

C. Maximum width or frontage of any use shall not exceed 50 feet.

D. Enlargement of gross floor area or width or frontage shall be permitted, provided any

such enlargement is limited to no more than 50% of the existing gross floor area or

frontage or width and the resultant gross floor area shall not in total exceed 3,000

square feet or a frontage or width of 75 feet. Any such enlargement shall be subject to

approval of the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, which shall

affirmatively find, among other things, that the enlargement and any resultant exterior

alteration is consistent with the historic character of the existing structures within the

VB District. Any such enlargement shall be conditioned upon the provision of off-street

parking in compliance with § 300-9.6D, any such enlargement shall not require

area variances equal to or in excess of 30% of any dimensional requirement in the

Table of Dimensional Regulations and the use within any such enlargement shall not

be a special exception use.[']

[1], Editor’s Note: Ihe Table of Dimensional Regulatìons is included at the end of thìs


E. Offices on a second floor within the VB District are permitted.

F. Any construction of a new building including construction of a replacement building,

shall require a landscaped area not less than 20% of the lot area.


December 15, 2016

Dear Kathryn,

Sag Harbor’s architectural integrity, history and charm are defining characteristics of the village and the foundation of our vibrant economy. It is what draws people to our community, whether for a day’s visit, or for a lifetime.

The designation of Sag Harbor’s Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places by the Federal Government states that it is “worthy of preservation”; an exemplar of American culture, our history, and our emergence as a nation. The hard endeavor and sacrifice of many generations has been handed down to us in the very buildings, public spaces, churches, homes, streetscapes and vistas that make up this unique Village on the Harbor.

These qualities underpin an inherent long-term value both for us and, importantly, for future generations. While we benefit from this heritage, we also have an obligation to guide growth, and to advocate for the preservation of that which is essential to the quality of this place.  

On behalf of our members and over 1,000 petitioners concerned about over-development and the loss of historic fabric, Save Sag Harbor has worked with our Village Officials to embrace and enforce historic preservation by writing letters, publishing ads, speaking out publicly at Village Board meetings and meeting with our elected officials. 

Our Mayor and Board of Trustees have acted decisively, and have pledged to increase and strengthen the residential zoning code and historic preservation laws that protect our Village and keep it so special.

The recently enacted Residential Building Moratorium is intended to give the Board of Trustees time to consider code changes that will strengthen the review process, bolster preservation protections and manage scale in all Village neighborhoods. We applaud these very prudent steps.

A small group of residents has suggested that Sag Harbor Village officials and Save Sag Harbor have worked together improperly and in bad faith. These characterizations are false. Public policies evolve in response to lawful and effective political activism, which is in the finest tradition of American democracy and is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of The United States.

Please join us in supporting the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to stand strong and continue their important work of protecting Sag Harbor’s historic heritage, resources, and quality of life.

Randolph Croxton 

For the Board of Save Sag Harbor


On April 14, 2015, Save Sag Harbor presented to the Village Board of Trustees our 7-Step Call-to-Action to STOP OVERDEVELOPMENT NOW!  (See Sag Harbor Express centerfold ad below.)  

Randy Croxton, a SSH board member and president of Croxton Collabortive Architects, read the recommendations aloud to the Village Board and into the public record.   

Almost 1,000 people signed our online petition, with 76% being area residents who live in or use Sag Harbor as their Market Village.  More than 320 signers also added their impassioned comments. 

Adding even more impact to our presentation, and just prior to Mr. Croxton’s reading, Main Street resident Carol Olejnik, well known for her tomato stand on Main Street, pleaded with Mayor Gilbride and the Trustees to take action regarding construction on her neighbor’s property.  Carol’s dispute could be the "poster child" for the problems addressed in our petition against over-development, including re-siting of houses, tearing them down, and rebuilding and enlarging them.  (Continued below.) 


Here is a summary of SAVE SAG HARBOR’s 7-Step Call-to-Action:  

  1. 1)The Village Board of Trustees should adopt a resolution unequivocally stating its commitment to protecting the established historic character of the Village. 

  1. 2)The Village should hire a qualified Historic Preservation Consultant / Village Historian to advise the Village boards, and all Village boards should receive ongoing training in historic preservation.

  1. 3)The Village should intensify code enforcement and impose new maximum penalties and significant fines to deter non-compliance.


  1. 4)The Village should request a study of intact, uncompromised houses and properties to establish formulas for permitted gross floor area (GFA), setbacks, pool setbacks, and pyramid and lot coverage restrictions. 

  1. 5)The Village should amend the zoning codes to strictly regulate the moving, re-siting and elevation of houses and the wholesale elimination and replacement of historic exteriors. 

  1. 6)The Village should require that all applications for new construction or additions submit comparative elevations showing the proposed project in relation to neighboring properties; and that neighboring properties be notified when applications are in front of the ARB as is now done for the ZBA. 

  1. 7)The Village should enact a clear, transparent process to ensure communication among all Village boards regarding all building applications and variance requests.  

We have implored the Village Board of Trustees to acknowledge that TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.  We must act NOW so that Sag Harbor — as we know it — does not vanish!  

The Board of Save Sag Harbor: 

Tom Clavin, Randy Croxton, Myrna Davis, Lorraine Dusky, Marcy Finkelstein, Geraldine Gottesman, Mia Grosjean, Joy Lewis, Hilary Loomis, Bob Weinstein and Jayne Young


Save Sag Harbor, Inc.

P.O. Box 775

Sag Harbor, NY 11963

December 13, 2016

Mayor Schroeder, Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees

and Tom Preiato, Building Inspector

Village Hall

55 Main Street

Sag Harbor, NY 11963

Dear Mayor Schroeder, Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees and Tom Preiato, Building Inspector:

Aspects of the Harbor Heights Service Station, newly renovated and recently reopened, may not conform to what we understood had been agreed upon and approved.

From the beginning, many residents had considerable reservations about the redevelopment of the Harbor Heights gas station on Hampton Street/Route 114. As a pre existing, nonconforming use within a historical residential neighborhood, any intensification of use is legally disfavored in order to encourage a reduction of the use and eventual cessation. The station was supposed to fit in, visually and practically, as a small, country-style station, with limited hours.

Residents expressed their overriding concerns about building size and the impact on surrounding properties.  Strict adherence to the zoning code is especially important given the station’s location within A) a residential neighborhood, B) across the street from the Eastville Community Historical Society, C) adjacent to the Village Historic District, D) within Eastville which is an African American Historic District E) next to the historic St. David’s A.M.E. Zion Church and its important cemetery.

Since 2011 Save Sag Harbor led the community fight to reduce the number of variances Harbor Heights Gas Station requested regarding its building application. Over 800 residents signed our petition to the Village ZBA to enforce its zoning code. The owner asked for 17 variances. The convenience store, for example, was originally proposed at more than twice the allowed size of 600 square feet, a tail that would have wagged the dog.

After two years of contentious hearings the Village granted just one variance. The station, now reopened and in operation, has raised concerns anew.  

The following aspects of the completed renovation do not appear to conform to the ZBA’s determinations,:

1) Signage  

Neon signs are prohibited by code. Presently there are four. Directional signs at the entrance and exit are the equivalent of road signs, rather than modest ones befitting a business in a residential and historic area. In addition, none of the signage including the “We Have Diesel” sign along Hampton Street/ Route 114 received approval or were  shown on the final site plan. (See photos)

2) Lighting

The Village Code and Dark Skies laws prohibit light trespassing (i.e. overflow lighting onto neighboring properties).  Nonetheless, the Planning Board approval explicitly adopted these requirements as a condition of approval.  The canopy is brightly lit all night, and the light trespass and glare on neighboring properties is obvious and excessive.  The canopy lights must be refitted with hooded covers that will direct the light down so that it doesn’t bounce off into the night skies.  (Or can there be another solution?)   Wattage needs to be significantly reduced both at the canopy and at the diesel pump. For comparison see the muted lighting at the Speedway Station (old Hess) on Montauk Highway in Wainscott. (See photos of Harbor Heights light illuminating neighboring trees)

3) Flagpole

A huge flagpole for which there was no application made or approved towers over the station on Route 114/Hampton Street, and is, in effect, an advertisement for the presence of the station.  The flagpole is an accessory structure and appears to be in violation of required setbacks. Non-enforcement of rules applicable to an accessory structure invites further violations on other properties.  Harbor Heights has been ticketed only once for the illegal flagpole.  This blatant and continuing violation demands ongoing enforcement and weekly ticketing until remedied.

4) Convenience Store

It was Save Sag Harbor’s understanding and that of the neighborhoods that the station and its convenience store would have limited hours and not operate 24 hours a day.  The Harbor Heights’ attorney represented in May 2011 that there was no intention to operate the station or the convenience store round-the-clock. This point was of particular importance to the neighborhoods to avoid traffic, noise and the purchase of alcohol in the night hours.  The store is now open 24 hours a day.

5) Vegetation Buffer

Village residents were led to believe that the required vegetation buffer on the perimeters would be of sufficient height and density to shield neighboring properties from visual and sound intrusions, so they would not be disturbed by the presence or activities of the station. We recall that the plantings were to be 15 to 20 feet tall and would take into account that the presence of existing slopes would make screening more challenging. The vegetative buffer was to provide immediate relief from the outset, not five to 10 years later.

6) Canopy

We are concerned that the length and width of the canopy may be longer and wider than allowed. The Village should personally inspect, measure and confirm these dimensions to insure they are in compliance with the final determination.

We are aware that the Planning Board approval included Continuing Jurisdiction.  We ask that this application be returned to the Board for further review.  

All relevant Village Boards should consider and determine whether there were any Material Misrepresentations involving lighting or the hours of operation made by or on behalf of Harbor Heights during the long period of approval, misleading the community in the process.

We ask that the above issues be remedied to the fullest extent of the law.  Code enforcement is crucial to remedy these problems. The above six points need your attention now, both to fix the existing issues and to send the critical message that Sag Harbor Village stands by its code.

It shouldn’t be a matter of personal opinion whether violations matter or not particularly in this highly visible case. If they are not addressed promptly conditions imposed in the review process on other properties may not be taken seriously either. Strict enforcement is essential to insure continued zoning code compliance.  

By originally enforcing its code the Village had a tremendous victory. Let’s build on it!

We would like to set up a meeting with the building inspector and the Planning Board to go over these concerns.


The Board of Save Sag Harbor

Tom Clavin, Randy Croxton, Myrna Davis, Michael Feirstein, Mia Grosjean, Joy Lewis, Hilary Loomis, Bob Weinstein, Jayne Young

CC: Jeff Bragman