With the demolition of commercial buildings and the ripping up of pavement underway next door at 1, 3, 5 Ferry Road to make way for the highly anticipated John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, the issue of how tall developer Jay Bialsky’s West Water Street condominiums will be seems to be the No. 1 concern of Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals members.
After all, if the Town of Southampton is going to foot the $10.5 million bill for the three properties using Community Preservation Fund dollars, village residents should at least be able to see it from the street.
That is, in part, the position of ZBA Chairman Tim McGuire, who said Mr. Bialsky would have a better chance of approval if he presented a downsized version of the plans that were reviewed at an August 14 ZBA meeting. Mr. McGuire said the condos, as proposed, would tower over West Water Street.
“There’s a lot of variance here that could be avoided if Mr. Bialsky was to cut this back from three stories to two,” Mr. McGuire said.
Among the 10 variances Mr. Bialsky has applied for to build the three-unit apartment building with underground parking are siting the structure 15 feet closer to the street and building it 11 feet taller than village law allows. He is calling for the building to be 46 feet tall where the maximum is 35 feet.
That would “crook the neck of people passing by,” said Sag Harbor resident Gigi Morris.
Almost half of the height requested is attributed to the proposed underground parking. The first floor would be 4.6 feet higher than the structure that is on the site now: a three-story, 13-unit office building.
The white building known for a time as the “1-800-LAWYERS” building was once eyed for renovation by Greystone Development, which proposed 11 condos on 30,000 square feet of the waterfront property. Mr. Bialsky swept up the property in April. His plan, according to architect David Harvey, was to create a complex with fewer units “that emulate sections of Main Street.”
However, it was the general feeling of the ZBA—as well as the Sag Harbor Village Architectural Review Board at a previous meeting—that Mr. Bialsky’s plan would impede on the streetscape. Mr. McGuire implored Mr. Bialsky to downsize the structure and the three condos. The condos would measure 10,224 square feet, 8,766 square feet and 8,750 square feet. The building would be twice the size of what’s currently on the lot.
Mr. Bialsky was present but did not speak. Mr. Harvey, who represented the South Fork developer, contended that Mr. Bialsky’s proposal for fewer units than Greystone had planned would be more favorable for traffic, parking and septic purposes.
It appears the ARB will wait until the ZBA makes a determination before adding further comment. While Mr. Bialsky did amend his plan in front of the ARB on July 31 by setting the top floor back four feet, ARB Chairman Anthony Brandt called the meeting “somewhat premature.” The West Water Street condos were not on the agenda at the ARB meeting on Thursday, August 23.
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