Bulova still inching ahead

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With environmental and affordable housing decisions essentially behind them, the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board took up the task for which it was formed and began reviewing the Bulova site plan with a public hearing on Monday.

Sag Development Partners presented its plan to redevelop the former watchcase factory into 65 luxury apartments and explained the history of changes to that plan, as well as a list of measures they say will minimize harm to the village during the construction process. Members of the Planning Board asked for clarifications and suggested some new changes, including adding lighting to the surrounding streets.

Despite cooperation between the board and SDP, the review could be moot, as the project has yet to make any progress with the Village Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA also must sign off before construction begins, and its chairman, Michael Bromberg, has stated that he will deny any plan that does not include on-site affordable housing as recommended by Suffolk County planners, something SDP refuses to consider.

Instead of on-site affordable housing, the Planning Board has voted to accept a $2.275 million donation from the developer for local housing assistance, and it’s moving ever closer to completing its role in the process.

If he votes against the project as it is, Mr. Bromberg would become one of the two votes needed on the five-member board to stop the project. Only one ZBA member, Anthony Hagen, has indicated he will vote in favor of the project, while opinions of the remaining three remain a mystery. The ZBA is scheduled to vote on whether to accept the affordable housing donation on Tuesday, April 15.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Bridgehampton-based environmental advocacy organization Group for the East End have been meeting with Southampton Town officials to look for ways to halt the project. So far, no decisive action has been taken. Group member Jeremy Samuelson said Tuesday he is looking into the Reid Brothers garage on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, which SDP plans to use as an off-site parking lot for contractors during the construction of Bulova. The Group opposed the Planning Board’s declaration that the Bulova plan was environmentally sound and it is now asking for an environmental and legal review of the Reid property by the Town of Southampton.

“Our concerns remain our concerns,” Mr. Samuelson said, adding that Reid Brothers is not permitted to allow such large-scale parking on the property.

Anna Throne-Holst of the Southampton Town Board said Reid Brothers is a licensed junkyard, up to date with fees and paperwork, and thus permitted to accommodate the vehicles. Mr. Samuelson said he is continuing to review the Reid Brothers’ certificate of occupancy to determine the legality of SDP’s proposed use.

Village Attorney Anthony Tohill said the Reid Brothers plan is legal and Planning Board member Neil Slevin said “as far as we’re concerned it’s a non issue.”

The Planning Board’s biggest concern during the public hearing on Monday was lighting. Mr. Slevin pointed out the darkness on streets around the Bulova property and said that it may be unsafe with increased pedestrian traffic. Chairman Jerome Toy said there is no streetlight on Church Street and the board agreed the problem would need to be addressed before the factory is occupied.

“You’re not a building development in the middle of the woods here,” Mr. Slevin said, adding, “It’s just completely dark.”

Project Manager for SDP David Kronman said his firm intended to limit light pollution as much as possible in order for the project to be considered at the highest level of environmentally friendly design. Project Architect Michael Wetstone said he had only looked at lighting the entrances and driveways at Bulova, but both men agreed to address the board’s concerns and have a solution prepared for its April 22 meeting. Historically consistent lampposts similar to those on Division Street will likely be added to the plan, Mr. Wetstone said.

During public input, Madison Street resident Ruth Vered said the cracked sidewalks and inadequate lighting had caused her to fall “a couple of times” while walking home from the village at night. “I’m so happy to hear how concerned the board is with the lighting of the streets,” she said.

Mr. Tohill also requested that a list of what trees will be added to the streets and a plan to keep them alive be added to the record and Mr. Kronman said he would work on it for the next meeting.

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