Bulova Declared Environmentally Sound

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The Sag Harbor Village Planning Board officially declared the Bulova redevelopment in need of no further environmental review on Tuesday and it will begin the site plan review process with a public hearing April 7.?Anticipated for some weeks, the negative declaration marked a major milestone in the development of the long decaying and abandoned Bulova watchcase factory into 65 luxury apartments. The Planning Board is lead agency on the project and its step forward on Tuesday makes it the second of three village boards to favor Sag Development Partners’ redevelopment plan. The Sag Harbor Architectural Review Board approved the restoration of the historic factory building months ago, but the Zoning Board has yet to reveal if it will allow the project to progress. That board’s chairman, Michael Bromberg, has indicated he will not approve the project if it fails to include affordable housing on site.?The Suffolk County Planning Commission required that 20 percent, or 13 of the units be affordable and located on site. SDP has insisted that adding the affordable units on site is not financially feasible and threatened to abandon the project if forced to include them. Instead, SDP is offering $2.275 million in cash for local housing assistance, money that would create a housing trust that would assist first-time home buyers.?In order for the project to gain approval as is, four of the five ZBA members must vote in favor of the hog override. Mr. Bromberg is expected to vote against the project and ZBA member Anthony Hagen is expected to vote in favor, but the intentions of the remaining members is unknown.?If it does allow the override, the ZBA will still have to make its standard approvals for the project as well as rule on a handful of variances needed to recreate all the elements of the original Bulova factory.?A vote on whether or not to accept SDP’s affordable housing offer was scheduled for the ZBA’s meeting last week, but it never took place. Mr. Bromberg said his board could not make a decision and would not entertain a straw poll until the Planning Board completed its environmental review.?Tuesday’s environmental declaration will likely put the ZBA to an affordable housing vote at its April 15 meeting and most acknowledge that the future of the Bulova factory hangs in the balance.?Before the declaration Tuesday, Planning Board Chairman Jerome Toy opened the floor for public comment, but only one person spoke. Group for the East End representative Jeremy Samuelson approached the board with a letter regarding a proposal from SDP to park contractor’s vehicles at the Reid Brothers garage on Sag Harbor Turnpike during construction. The off-site parking was originally planned at Wainscott Sand and Gravel in the Town of East Hampton, but the town requested a site plan review and, unwilling to engage in further process and red tape, SDP moved the parking elsewhere.?”Many of those issues seem to apply here, to the Reid property,” Mr. Samuelson said, explaining that the garage is outside Sag Harbor Village jurisdiction and should be subject to a similar review from the Town of Southampton.?According to the plan, which is designed to reduce traffic and parking congestion in the Village, workers will park on the Reid Brothers property and be shuttled to and from Bulova by bus. The Reid family has agreed to provide SDP with two acres of land for parking 75 to 100 vehicles and Mr. Samuelson noted that the property is not “paved, striped or drained for the purpose of being used as a parking lot.”?According to Mr. Samuelson’s letter, the property contains state regulated wetlands and is not approved for use as a parking/staging area or the operation of a shuttle, but on Wednesday property co-owner Robert Reid expressed little concern over the matter. “I can’t see ?that they can give me any trouble,” ?Mr. Reid said, noting that parking is ?an existing use at his junkyard and ?garage.?The Group’s consistent message has been that the Bulova review does not follow state regulations and the project should be deemed as having potential environmental impacts and subjected to further scrutiny.?”Any proposed use of this site should have to be considered by the Town of Southampton and the State of New York,” Mr. Samuelson said.?”The arguments that have just been asserted do not have validity at all,” Village Attorney Tony Tohill said, explaining that the auto repair shop is regularly used for parking and the issue does not fall under state environmental review. He said that with the exception of a mandated Superfund waste remediation and excavation at the site, the state requires “a hard look” at the project’s environmental impacts, which he believes the Planning Board has done during its lengthy review process.?Outside the meeting, Mr. Samuelson seemed comfortable with his assertion that using Reid Brothers for parking and shuttle service would present problems for SDP and noted that the Group is considering its options on how to next combat the project. “We’re in the process of making a decision, one way or the other, about whether or not to sue these guys,” he said.

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