A temporary building moratorium in Sag Harbor to slow development will be presented for public comment next month.
Sag Harbor Village officials are considering a three-month moratorium to allow time to reevaluate the residential zoning portion of the village code as it pertains to the gross floor area of homes. A public hearing on the proposed moratorium will be held at July’s Village Board meeting.
The moratorium would most likely be imposed on any new construction of more than 3,000 square feet, or on renovations that would increase the size of a house by more than 50 percent, according to Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. Smaller additions such as a bathroom, bedroom or deck would not be included, he said.
The push to introduce the moratorium at Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting came from Deputy Mayor Sandra Schroeder, who had said on Friday that the increase in teardowns and building of excessively large homes that has taken place within the last year is a trend that cannot be ignored any longer.
“We need to slow things down so we can justly work on the residential section of our code,” said Ms. Schroeder, who is a candidate for mayor in Tuesday’s village election. “We have issues we have to address, and it’s for the benefit of the entire village. We have so much work to do—this will slow down what’s going on.”
Village Trustees Ed Deyermond, Ken O’Donnell and Robby Stein—the latter also a candidate for mayor—also said Friday that they were each in favor of a moratorium. Mayor Brian Gilbride, whose last meeting as mayor was Tuesday night, said he supported the idea, although it is something the board and new mayor will be handling.
“We’re losing the historic feel of the village,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “Within the last year to six months, the teardown situation has gotten a little bit out of control. The reason Sag Harbor is still charming is that it was a working-class [village], and residents didn’t have the money to tear down and build something new. Obviously, there’s a need to look into the codes to try and tighten up the loopholes.”
Over the past few months, residents have been vocal about the need to put the brakes on building. Save Sag Harbor, a nonprofit organization that aims to protect the character of the village, started a Change.org petition earlier this year that called out village officials and demanded that they take a look at the residential zoning code. The petition garnered more than 1,000 signatures in a matter of weeks.
On Tuesday night, though, one resident approached the Village Board with a different opinion. Steven Barr of Howard Street said he did not understand why a moratorium was necessary. “If you’re going to change the code, change the code and give approvals according to the new code,” he said. “Why is it necessary to not process [applications]?
“I just think it’s creepy. It’s un-American,” he continued, at which audience members laughed.
Mr. Barr added that putting a stop to some building, even if just for a few months, would make more work for the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review and the Zoning Board of Appeals, which would have to figure out which applications they could process. “They do a really good job, and I think people are incredibly arrogant who don’t serve on those boards,” he said. “Why can’t we work on tweaking the current system instead of listening to the minority of this village? Believe me, you’re going to be hearing from a lot of people in the middle.”
Mr. Gilbride noted that the moratorium would not prevent everybody from making changes to their homes, but instead would target the larger-scale additions and buildings that have been quickly changing the face of the village.
“If there’s an assumption that there will be no building permits issued, that’s not true,” he said, stressing that the law will simply allow village officials “an attempt to catch their breath.
“This is not a total moratorium where no building is allowed,” the mayor said. “This is an attempt by the village to get their arms around some of the houses that are getting knocked down and much larger houses end up there.
“In July, there will be the discussion, and people can ask questions,” he added.
One fine body…