Sag Harbor Village planning officials are exploring better ways to make decisions when considering redevelopment proposals, rather than looking at the number of parking spaces a project might have.
Planning Board Chair Kay Preston Lawson, Village Attorney Denise Schoen and Village Planner Kathryn Eiseman have been discussing better metrics to use in place of weighing the proposed gross floor area of a project versus the availability of parking.
“When people are redeveloping properties in the village and wanting to maximize the square footage, we’re running into a couple of issues, the biggest one being the granting of parking variances,” Ms. Lawson said during the board’s virtual meeting on June 23.
In research and conversations, she said, it’s come to her attention that basing development decisions on parking is not a good way to do planning
“I think that’s part of why we’ve been frustrated with that, why developers have been frustrated with that and also why other boards have been frustrated with that,” she continued.
Parking would be decoupled from decisions on applications, but only after a parking study.
“I almost don’t want to say the p-word, but it’s part and parcel with redevelopment in the village,” Ms. Lawson said.
She noted that Riverhead recently took up a parking study to identify and maximize the parking it has to enable a comprehensive zoning, development and planning strategy.
“The idea that villages are doing this and coming up with different standards on how to guide our decision making, I think it’s kind of exciting,” Ms. Lawson said.
Right now, the board is often approving projects based on the gross floor area, she noted, and that allowable gross floor area can be tied into the number of parking spaces the applicant can provide. The board has also run into situations where people are submitting “creative” documents that are not representing gross floor area accurately, she said, using air quotes to repeat “creative.”
“It’s like a rabbit hole. And the other boards are struggling, too, with this, and then layer on top of that, that it’s not actually a good way to do planning when there’s other things to consider, like airflow, light, accessibility, view, what the buildings look like,” she said. “And all those factors, that are multifaceted also help to … shepherd growth in a way that’s more consistent with having the best village experience that we can have.”
She envisions that one outside consultant would look at parking, and a second consultant would conduct surveys and control groups with people in the village who are interested in engaging in the process, including the regulatory boards.
“I think it’s kind of exciting, but it’s certainly a process that we’re just getting started on,” she said.
“It makes total sense to me,” Planning Board member Jonas Hagen said during the meeting. “The parking coefficients that we use — so and so many square feet of commercial space means so and so many parking spaces required — that’s actually a real pseudoscience.”
There is a big movement in academia discussing this, and now the idea is moving into planning, he said.
Mr. Hagen said he would like to add more criteria to guide development, such as conditions for walking, public space and affordability.
“The current metric is cumbersome, and it’s not working for us, it’s not working for the other boards,” Ms. Lawson said.
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