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Dec 24, 2015 4:59 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Village Of Sag Harbor Releases Draft Local Laws To Amend Zoning Code

Jan 5, 2016 6:06 PM

Sag Harbor Village officials have released drafts of four new local laws that would revise the village zoning code, an effort that’s bearing fruit just as the village’s building moratorium is set to expire.

Perhaps the most significant is Local Law 2, which would limit the size of a house based on lot size, according to Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr.

On lots smaller than 5,000 square feet, the proposed law states that houses cannot have a gross floor area of more than 2,000 square feet. Gross floor area is defined as the square footage of all floor levels of a home, measured to the exterior of the outside walls. It does not include cellars or open structures like porches.

Based on a lot’s square footage, the permitted gross floor area would inch up along with the size of the lot. However, an additional 5,000 square feet in lot size would increase the maximum gross floor by only 400 square feet. A home on a 10,000-square-foot lot could have a gross floor area of only 2,400 square feet.

Additionally, lots of 30,000 square feet or larger—that applies to only about 10 percent of properties inside the village borders—could not have homes that exceed a gross floor area of 4,000 square feet. Mr. Thiele said there would be a special permit process requiring Village Board approval for any home larger than that.

The law would further prohibit homes in the village from exceeding a gross floor area of 6,000 square feet on lots larger than 55,000 square feet.

Mr. Thiele explained that several other villages, including North Haven, Sagaponack and East Hampton, all have size limits based on the gross floor area of homes. He said the laws in those villages are even more stringent than Sag Harbor’s proposed laws, especially with regard to lots smaller than 30,000 square feet.

Mr. Thiele noted that 90 percent of all lots in the village are smaller than 30,000 square feet, and said that most of the other villages are dealing with much larger lots.

“What we were trying to do with the gross floor area law is, first and foremost, protect the historical character of the village, but at the same time balance that against the rights of individual property owners to be able to expand their houses and to be able to use their properties,” Mr. Thiele said.

In order to come up with the law, Southampton-based Inter-Science Research Associates evaluated every single lot in the village—there are 1,607 of them—according to Mr. Thiele.

Local Law 2 notes the median lot size and median gross floor area of homes in the village, which are 13,152 square feet and 1,587 square feet, respectively. Right now, under the village’s zoning code, a home on a lot that size could potentially be expanded to have a gross floor area of 5,260 square feet. However, under the proposed local law, a home on the median lot size could expand only to 2,652 square feet, or 1,065 square feet more than the current median size of a home.

“What this law would do—if you look at averages—on average it would allow an expansion for those houses by about 67 percent,” Mr. Thiele said.

He explained that there are only 179 houses in the village that could not conform to the proposed local laws, and 149 of them do not even conform under the current code anyway. That leaves just 30 homes that conform under the current code but would not conform to the proposed new local laws.

Local Law 1 is significant as well because it lays out the process and time frame that the Board of Historical Preservation and Architectural Review must follow when it gets an application. Currently, the process is much too informal, Mr. Thiele said.

The new law sets time limits for the ARB to issue a certificate of appropriateness: The ARB must ensure that a public hearing on the proposed project does not occur later than 60 days from the date on which the applicant submits a complete application. After that hearing, the board must make a decision within 60 days.

“It is better for the village and applicants that there is a time frame involved,” Mr. Thiele said. “The process needs to be more formal.”

Another part of Local Law 1 addresses historic buildings in the historic district. “The idea here is to have a much closer review of those kinds of projects,” Mr. Thiele said. “We define what a demolition is, so any application that takes down either a whole historic building or part of a historic building is going to be subject to these rules.”

All demolitions in the historic district will require a public hearing and a full, five-member board will be necessary to make a decision on an application. “To be able to demolish the building will be on the applicant to show why they should be able to demolish,” Mr. Thiele said. “We are shifting the burden of proof to the applicant and making sure it is a very close review.”

The ARB could also require the posting of a bond as a condition of approval for a certificate of appropriateness, Mr. Thiele said.

Local Law 3 would impose a fee on building permits for homes that have a gross floor area of more than 2,500 square feet. Every square foot more than that will cost $15 and will go to the Sag Harbor Village Community Housing Opportunity Fund.

“This would generate an annual sum of money for affordable housing,” Mr. Thiele said, adding that Sag Harbor Village would be the first in the state to have a process like this one.

“Those larger homes are making it harder and harder to find affordable housing,” Mr. Thiele said. He noted that there is a clear relationship “between those bigger houses and the difficulty with finding it [affordable housing] here.”

Lastly, the fourth local law addresses the construction and maintenance of swimming pools, including fencing and lighting. It aims to “harmonize all of the different positions of the state and local law in the Village Code,” Mr. Thiele said.

The Village Board is slated to hold a public information meeting on January 12 at which the different proposed laws will be explained. After hearing comment from the public, the board will consider changes to the proposed laws. Only then will the board schedule a public hearing on the local laws, Mr. Thiele said.

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Wow goverment yet again takes away private property rights. Vote Fred Thiele out of office he doesn't respect the constitution.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 24, 15 5:35 PM
2 members liked this comment
Fred Thiele is a disgrace. He's forcing a failed zoning plan on all of Sag Harbor in hopes of picking up a handful of votes to save his State Assembleyman seat thanks to a handful of Save Sag Harbor wackos. Good luck with thay strategy Fred. Miscalculation of the century. To every Contractor on the South Fork, know this: Fred Thiele is taking food off your tables so he can get re-elected. The guy has never taken a preservation position ever in the history of ever and now all of the sudden, this? ...more
By TedNugent (5), Sagaponack on Dec 27, 15 3:06 PM
2 members liked this comment
Wackos indeed
By widow gavits (219), sag harbor on Jan 8, 16 10:45 AM
Fred Thiele is useless. He is a member of the NYS Assembly that is a cesspool of corruption!!!!!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Dec 27, 15 8:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
The real disgrace is that we are all referencing Fred Thiele, when in fact we should be referencing the elected Board of Trustees.

By Aidan Corish (16), Sag Harbor on Dec 29, 15 12:22 PM
Hit enter too soon!, Our village has outsourced our governing to Mr. Thiel! Shame on them.
By Aidan Corish (16), Sag Harbor on Dec 29, 15 12:23 PM
Dump Fred!
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jan 4, 16 3:18 PM
Tuesday's BoT meeting should be interesting
By Old Sag Harbor Resident (12), Sag Harbor on Jan 6, 16 5:04 PM