Z.B.A. Harbor Heights Opponents On Attack

Attorney for Save Sag Harbor claims expansion of nonconforming use
The future of the Harbor Heights service station’s proposed expansion was discussed at the zoning board of appeals on Tuesday night by an attorney hired by Save Sag Harbor, a civic group. Morgan McGivern

    “Good buffers make good neighbors,” Jeffrey Bragman said, loosely quoting Robert Frost, as he told the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday night that the proposed reconstruction of the Harbor Heights Service Station on Madison Street was out of line.
    Mr. Bragman, an East Hampton lawyer representing Save Sag Harbor, a citizens group, began his remarks after the board had already approved four applications, discussed other business, and held a lengthy hearing on a Garden Street property. (The Star will cover the latter in a future issue.)
    Before Mr. Bragman was done, however, Anthony Hagen, the board chairman, called a halt to his presentation due to the late hour. What Mr. Bragman said would be “the best part” of his argument on behalf of Save Sag Harbor is scheduled for the Z.B.A.’s next meeting, on March 19, when public comment will also be heard.
    The attorney accused the applicant, who does business as Petroleum Ventures, of “stripping out every zoning protection designed to help neighbors,” while saying that it was not the zoning board’s responsibility to “protect a businessman who wants to maximize his profit.” He called the proposal for Harbor Heights a “detriment to the community,” saying that, according to village legislation, gas stations are intended to remain small. The “applicant is not entitled to sell you into a variance because they disagree with the policy.”
    Mr. Bragman offered the board a picture of how much the applicant was asking for in numerous variance requests with a service station plan that would require none. According to Mr. Bragman’s plan, the applicant could have two pumps, a 1,273-square-foot building, a garage, 50-foot setbacks at front, 30-foot-deep landscaping all around, 31 parking spaces, and a 600-square-foot store, along with a complete basement of equal size.
    Instead, he said the design calls for a 58-percent variance for height, falls 2,000 square- feet short on landscaping, and increases lighting from 17 to 33 percent. The two additional pumps proposed would amount to a “physical extension of nonconforming use . . . an obvious expansion of use.” Tearing the old building down and relocating it was legally problematic, as well, he said, and the new building and pumps would cover more of the lot.
    Focusing on a proposed new fuel island, he said that it would be 24 feet long by 3 feet wide and “bigger than the building they want to build.” He compared the 89-foot-long canopy over the pumps to those at gas stations on Montauk Highway in Wainscott, which he said was “inappropriate in this setting.”
    Noting that the application calls for a 972-square-foot convenience store, he said only 600 square feet is allowed. “A glamorous convenience store” with several aisles and room for pop-up displays requested 89 percent setback variance for a sign, “2 feet away instead of 20 feet,” saying that in effect it would constitute repealing the setback provisions of the law. He also talked of the “landmark church to the west,” telling the board, “The applicant didn’t pay attention to it, but you should.”
    “You don’t grant variances for the convenience of an applicant, so they can make more money,” Mr. Bragman told the board.  “You lack the power to do it, and you shouldn’t do it.”