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Harbor Heights Draws Full House Before Sag Harbor ZBA

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Colleen Reynolds   Jan 16, 2013 11:49 AM
Jan 16, 2013 12:07 PM

A public hearing on plans to demolish the Harbor Heights gas station in Sag Harbor and build a larger one in its place and add on a convenience store drew a big crowd to a Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board meeting on Tuesday night. Ultimately, the discussion dragged on for so long that board members decided to cut it off and resume discussion next month.

The plan has long been a source of contention among residents who claim the new design is too big and would destroy the residential and historical character of the neighborhood.

Petroleum Ventures has been seeking for years to tear down a 1,874-square-foot garage and office building currently on the site, at 144 Hampton Street, also known as Route 114. In its place it would build a new, 1,842-square-foot building, with more than 1,000 square feet dedicated to a new convenience store. The plans also call for expanding the 1,245-square-foot automobile repair garage to 1,595 square feet to provide a rest room and an office, installing a new sanitary system, upgrading three existing 6,000-gallon underground gasoline storage tanks, installing a new 12,000-gallon underground gasoline storage tank, installing four new fuel pumps with a canopy, lighting and fire suppression system, and installing a new stormwater drainage collection and retention system, as well as installing new curbing and limited access to and from Hampton Street and new sidewalks.

The size of the property is 43,375 square feet and is operating as a pre-existing, non-conforming use in a residential neighborhood.

The company is seeking relief to build the convenience store 15.6 feet from Hampton Street where 50 feet are required, as well as to construct the fuel pump islands 23.2 feet from Hampton Street, where 50 feet are required. The firm is also seeking several other variances, including those involving building height, landscape buffers and retail sales area.

Chris Tartaglia, the principal of High Point Engineering, the engineer for the project, said on Tuesday that the station needs to add a convenience store to remain a viable business in an age of decreasing revenue from gasoline, which he attributed in part to higher mileage requirements.

He also said studies have shown that traffic, noise and lighting would not be significantly increased at the site.

Board members Michael Bromberg and Brendan Skislock, in particular, pressed the developers on many points about where they derived certain data. They also requested additional information supporting the engineer’s findings.

Throughout the hearing, members of the public often snickered at remarks made by Mr. Tartaglia, as well as those made by Charles D. Olivio, the principal of Stonefield Engineering and Design, who spoke about the traffic studies.

Jeff Bragman, an attorney representing the civic group Save Sag Harbor, which strongly opposes the project, said he had a lot to say, but would speak when the discussion resumes next month, on February 19.

Numerous residents of the Azurest, Sag Harbor Hills, Ninevah, Chatfield’s Hill and Hillcrest Terrace neighborhoods turned out on Tuesday, and those who got a chance to speak, like Anita Rainford, president of the Azurest Property Owners Association, strongly denounced the plans.

The Reverend Kenneth Nelson of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Eastville Avenue, which is adjacent to the Harbor Heights site, claimed a convenience store would attract loiterers and might sell alcohol—near the church.

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