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Mar 15, 2019 5:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor ARB Approves Much-Debated Townhouse Project On West Water Street

Dave Harvey of D&D Harvey Architects discussed the reduced size of the third townhouse.  ELIZABETH VESPE
Mar 19, 2019 12:31 PM

The controversial townhouse project slated for 2 West Water Street received a unanimous go-ahead from the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board after a public hearing on Thursday, March 14.

Some speakers expressed appreciation for the reduced size of the townhouses, but others still opposed the overall project, saying the townhouses were still too large and did not fit the character of the village.

The former chairman of the board, Anthony Brandt, resigned on January 30 before he was able to cast a formal vote on the project, which he opposed. In a straw poll taken a few days earlier, with one member absent, the board had been evenly split, 2-2, about the application.

Judith Long had joined Mr. Brandt in opposing an earlier version of the application, and David Berridge, as a new board member, said he wanted to wait to learn more before weighing in.

This time, the vote was unanimous.

At the ARB’s previous meeting, property owner Jay Bialsky and his project consultants had talked about reducing the size of the third unit—the townhouse closest to the water—which the board and residents were most concerned about, citing its size and its effect on the view of Sag Harbor as people drive over the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge. That change in the developer’s plans, expressed at the February 14 meeting, triggered the board to reopen the public hearing on Mr. Bialsky’s plan to build the three-unit condominium complex on three-quarters of an acre.

Dave Harvey of D&D Harvey Architects in Sag Harbor used a three-dimensional rendering of the site plan to illustrate the changes to the third townhouse. “We’ve greatly reduced it,” he explained. “We’ve reduced it by one-third and reduced the rooftop pavilion and deck by 66 percent.”

He and Andre Kikoski, the project architect, agreed that the new design for the third townhouse was “lighter,” and fit in better with the neighborhood.

“We worked it out. We reduced it so that it’s a lean volume compared to what it was before,” Mr. Kikoski said, before recounting what Mr. Berridge had said in a previous meeting.

“David made a great suggestion: ‘Why don’t you allow this building to be something else?” Mr. Kikoski said. “Let it become something different, something lighter and have a little fun with it. That was very inspiring.”

With that advice, Mr. Bialsky’s consultants reduced the size of the third townhouse, added weathered wood siding consistent with neighboring homes, in an effort to ensure that the building would fit in with the character of the neighborhood.

“The glass and the openness will reflect light and be a lot less dense than the two buildings that face the street,” Mr. Harvey assured the board as residents who filled the seats of the meeting room listened. The two brick buildings along West Water Street will remain the same as in the earlier plan.

When the project was first brought to the board, it involved one large building at 36,000 square feet. The three buildings combined are now slightly under 22,000 square feet, Mr. Harvey said.

“The building has gone from nearly 7,200 square feet to 5,600 square feet,” Mr. Harvey added of the third townhouse nearest the water. “We wanted to do everything we could to make this as visually light as possible.”

Mr. Kikoski added that the glass from the pavilion will reflect the trees, water, and the setting sun as people drive over the Jordan Haerter Bridge into Sag Harbor.

“It’s a wonderful change you’ve made in reducing this building as you have,” Dean Gomolka, chairman of the board, replied. “The breezeway is wonderful—you can see the water … I really like the project.”

Randy Croxton, a board member of Save Sag Harbor, read a statement prepared by his board. “We definitely see positive changes that have been undertaken,” Mr. Croxton said.

He thanked Mr. Bialsky, who sat in the audience, for the further reduction, but added that the group still feels that the proposed development is not in keeping with the rest of the village’s historic district. “It is our hope that further reductions may be made to ensure its successful outcome,” Mr. Croxton said.

“The recent reduction of building three on the site is welcomed,” said Victoria Sharp of Sag Harbor. “Yet buildings one and two remain oversized and accessibly imposing … They are simply just too big.”

Ms. Sharp urged the board to “protect the harmony and character of the village.” She added that the board has the authority to bring the project into better conformance so residents and visitors will not say for years to come, “How did this happen in Sag Harbor?”

However, Scott Fordham, a 13th-generation Sag Harbor resident, was among a handful of attendees in support of the project. He said that the current “1-800 LAWYERS” building, which is to be torn down, is not at all in keeping with its surroundings due to its size and style.

“He’s downsized the buildings by a third. I’m in favor for this. I think it’s going to be a big improvement from what’s there now.”

Before Mr. Bialsky can apply for a building permit, he and his consultants will need site plan approval from the Village Planning Board, which will meet on Tuesday, March 26. The development will also need approval from the Harbor Committee, which will meet in April.

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