Nose Dive for Heights Plan

Morgan McGivern

       Plans to renovate and expand the Harbor Heights service station on Route 114 in Sag Harbor were dealt a blow by the village zoning board of appeals last Thursday when its members, in a straw poll, said they would deny three of the four variances the project in its current configuration requires.

       The Z.B.A. had planned to issue a written decision on the application of John Leonard’s Petroleum Ventures L.L.C. on Tuesday night, but the meeting was postponed until next month because of the snowstorm that hit the East End that afternoon and evening.

       The Z.B.A. said it would reject a request to allow the gas station to convert a portion of its existing building into a 718-square-foot convenience store. The village code limits the size to 600 square feet.

       Another variance, seeking a reduction in the 30-foot required buffered side yard setbacks, to 10.5 feet and 21 feet, was also rejected.

       A variance seeking a determination as to whether the renovation project, which includes the addition of gas pumps and a canopy to cover them, was an intensification of a pre-existing, nonconforming use, was rendered moot once the Z.B.A. decided to not approve the variance for the size of the store.

       The sole variance the board approved was for a 15.5-foot front yard setback, where 50 feet is required, because that coincides with the placement of the existing building.

       Anthony Hagen, the Z.B.A.’s chairman, said the board was concerned that the plans, which in one form or another have been before the village’s planning board and Z.B.A. for several years, were an attempt to create “a highway type gas station” that he said would clash too much with the surrounding residential area.

       He defended the time it took the Z.B.A. to come up with its decision, stating that commercial applications in residential zones are by their nature more complicated than the typical residential applications the board reviews.

       That the decision will most likely end up in the courts was driven home by the presence of the village’s attorney, Fred. W. Thiele Jr., along with the Z.B.A.’s lawyer, Denise Schoen.

       Dennis Downes, the attorney representing Petroleum Ventures, did not return a call seeking commen