After going back and forth for nearly an hour, the Sag Harbor Village Board unanimously agreed Tuesday night to authorize the Breakwater Yacht Club’s option to renew its lease, which was set to expire next month.
The 20-year lease, which expires May 31, includes the option to renew for an additional 10 years, with the condition that the rent is doubled from $3,000 to $6,000 a year.
Officers from Breakwater had been under the impression that the lease would automatically be renewed—that is, until they learned a few months ago that village officials believed they had not been complying with some terms of the lease. Officials said it appeared that the club had not been hooking up to the village’s sewer district, and that it allegedly used the property on Bay Street for non-yacht club purposes without permission.
In January, members of Breakwater’s board of directors, along with Commodore Olaf Neubert, said they did not understand why the option to renew was being questioned, as they were never notified of those wrongdoings.
But when the agenda for Tuesday evening’s Village Board meeting suddenly included an item that read: “Authorization to reject Breakwater Yacht Club’s exercise of option to renew the lease/license for an additional 10 years,” the Board of Directors and Mr. Neubert, along with dozens of club members, packed the meeting room in the Municipal Building to demand that officials not evict the organization. Breakwater, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity, is more of a community sailing center than a yacht club—it has about 300 members and hosts sailing programs for people of all ages.
“Our board of directors takes its responsibilities seriously. Our books are audited annually. We’re on public record with the state,” said Vice Commodore Luke Babcock, adding that the club’s right to its lease extension was indisputable.
“Breakwater Yacht Club has only one purpose: to keep the sailing legacy alive for our children,” said Barry Browning, a member of the club’s board of directors. “If the lease is opened up, who will stop a wealthy developer from coming in and outbidding us?”
Nine-year-old Emily Squires described her first experience at Breakwater last summer and said she couldn’t wait to go back this summer. “It was just so nice to have the water open to us, and we had the nicest coaches, and we just had a blast,” Emily said.
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride explained that he did not want to evict the club but rather wanted to have a discussion about the lease and how it could be changed, something he said the village was never approached about. He added that the wording of the agenda item was a way to get people to come to the meeting.
Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. added that he learned this week that Breakwater hired Riverhead attorney Anthony Tohill, which Mr. Gilbride said he thought was a premature move.
“As far as I’m concerned … there has been a lack of at least somebody calling the village office to discuss this,” he said. “Do I believe that Breakwater can get a 10-year lease renewal? Absolutely. It’s nice to see a piece of village land used that well for the kids. But I will tell you firsthand that that lease needs some work.”
Village Board members also said they did not want to evict the organization. Trustee Robby Stein said he thought the club should even be renewing for longer than 10 years.
In the middle of the discussion, Trustee Ken O’Donnell made a motion to authorize the option to renew, which resulted in a long round of applause from those in attendance.
Trustee Ed Deyermond, however, noted that the one problem he had with the lease was that he did not believe that Breakwater had sufficient liability insurance. If anything serious were to occur, he explained, the village would be held responsible as well, because the club operates on village land. “If someone gets hurt, we are the ones with the deep pockets,” Mr. Deyermond said.
Bruce Tait, another member of Breakwater’s board of directors, said the club pays about $20,000 a year in insurance. Mr. Neubert added that the insurance covers both the club and the village “to the umpteenth degree.”
Toward the end of the discussion, Mr. Neubert stressed the importance of keeping Breakwater a vital part of the Sag Harbor community, adding that he and the club’s board would meet with village officials to hash out the problematic items pointed out in the lease. “We need to get the ambiguity and the uncertainty resolved,” he said.
After the board voted to authorize the option to renew, both Mr. Neubert and Mr. Babcock shook hands with the village officials.
“I will say to you that as the mayor I’ve always been in favor of the yacht club being there,” Mr. Gilbride said. “I don’t see it ending.”
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the Village Board adopted an $8.5 million spending plan for 2015-16, paired with a $5.6 million tax levy.
The adopted budget reflects a 0.89-percent decrease from the current year’s and is roughly $400,000 less than village officials had discussed over the past few months.
The tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year is $2.74 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The biggest increase is seen in health services, at 12.29 percent, due to the village adding $110,000 for paid personnel for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
In addition to the general budget, village officials also adopted a $581,143 sewer fund budget, up about 10 percent from the current year’s. The bulk of that increase can be attributed to medical and dental insurance for employees.