The communities of Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah, the SANS...

The communities of Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah, the SANS Historic District, were established by Black people beginning in 1947 when Jim Crow laws that legalized segregation barred them from white beach communities. Credit: Anthony J. Causi

The Sag Harbor Village Board is moving forward with a plan to create a new zoning category aimed at managing development in three historically Black beach communities.

The decision to create the Historically Black Beach Communities Overlay District comes after the board spent months weighing proposals presented by two factions to implement their visions on how to best preserve the communities of Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah, the SANS Historic District. The communities along the coastline of Sag Harbor Bay off Route 114 were established by Black people beginning in 1947 when Jim Crow laws that legalized segregation barred them from white beach communities. 

Sag Harbor, like other communities in the Hamptons, has seen median home prices soar, most recently between 2021 and 2022, data shows. There also has been an increased interest in recent years from real estate agents and others seeking to buy properties in the district even if they were not listed for sale. This led to an active debate about how to best protect the historic character and culture of that part of the village.

The village board, which decided in October to create the overlay district, is tentatively planning to vote on Tuesday to set a date for a public hearing to consider a local law establishing it. Sag Harbor Village Mayor James LaRocca told Newsday the village is required by state law to make a referral to Suffolk County to sign off before a local law is enacted. Marykate Guilfoyle, a spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, said Wednesday the county received the referral on Nov. 4 and according to the county code it has 45 days to respond. She told Newsday the county drafted a letter to village officials on Wednesday, saying the county's planning commission will not be weighing in on the matter and the decision will be up to local officials.

The overlay district would give homeowners more flexibility, allowing them to make home improvements and tap into the potential value of their homes, advocates argued. Local historic designation would be more restrictive but was preferred by other residents.

The 300 homes in the district make up about 30% of the homes in Sag Harbor, village officials said.

Since 2019, 24 properties in the district have been sold with prices ranging from $550,000 to $8.15 million, Hara Kang, a Realtor with the Atlantic Team at Douglas Elliman in the Hamptons, said.

Errol Taylor, president of the Ninevah Beach Property Owners Association, who lobbied for the overlay district along with two other homeowner associations, told Newsday, "Our proposal addresses the things we need to do to stabilize our community.” 

Sag Harbor Village is a certified local government, or CLG, a federal program administered by the New York State Historic Preservation Office. Local municipalities are encouraged to participate and are accepted if its codes and practices meet state standards. 

LaRocca on Friday told Newsday his administration believes a new overlay district is compatible with the village’s CLG status. CLG municipalities are certified as demonstrating a commitment to local preservation, according to the National Parks website, which administers the program in partnership with the New York State Historic Preservation Office. The benefits of participation include eligibility for state grants for technical preservation assistance, legal advice and training opportunities to increase the ability to protect historic resources. 

LaRocca said one proposal is not better than the other, but each offers preservation components that work in “harmony” with each other. He said the local historic designation proposal, rooted in the CLG process, is a work in progress, and he plans to meet with state historic preservation officials and local historical proponents this week to discuss it.

The overlay proposal calls for things such as prohibiting installing sidewalks, tightening enforcement of existing codes to make it harder to get a zoning variance and increased representation on various village boards with SANS district residents.

The communities were listed on both the state and National Register of Historic Places in 2019 following a campaign led by Renee Simons of Sag Harbor Hills. She also is pushing for local designation and told Newsday that it offers the best protection against unlimited demolition and transformation of the community’s character. 

On Monday, Simons said the village is contractually obligated as a CLG to inventory properties listed on state and federal registries to determine if they should be added to the village’s existing historic district. She said she plans to continue to press village officials to complete the inventory. 

“If they are not following their responsibility, the question is raised ‘why are they a CLG and why are they getting state monies if they are not doing their job?’ ” she said.

With Arielle Martinez

The Sag Harbor Village Board is moving forward with a plan to create a new zoning category aimed at managing development in three historically Black beach communities.

The decision to create the Historically Black Beach Communities Overlay District comes after the board spent months weighing proposals presented by two factions to implement their visions on how to best preserve the communities of Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah, the SANS Historic District. The communities along the coastline of Sag Harbor Bay off Route 114 were established by Black people beginning in 1947 when Jim Crow laws that legalized segregation barred them from white beach communities. 

Sag Harbor, like other communities in the Hamptons, has seen median home prices soar, most recently between 2021 and 2022, data shows. There also has been an increased interest in recent years from real estate agents and others seeking to buy properties in the district even if they were not listed for sale. This led to an active debate about how to best protect the historic character and culture of that part of the village.

Sag Harbor Village Mayor James LaRocca seen on July 31,...

Sag Harbor Village Mayor James LaRocca seen on July 31, 2019. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The village board, which decided in October to create the overlay district, is tentatively planning to vote on Tuesday to set a date for a public hearing to consider a local law establishing it. Sag Harbor Village Mayor James LaRocca told Newsday the village is required by state law to make a referral to Suffolk County to sign off before a local law is enacted. Marykate Guilfoyle, a spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, said Wednesday the county received the referral on Nov. 4 and according to the county code it has 45 days to respond. She told Newsday the county drafted a letter to village officials on Wednesday, saying the county's planning commission will not be weighing in on the matter and the decision will be up to local officials.

The overlay district would give homeowners more flexibility, allowing them to make home improvements and tap into the potential value of their homes, advocates argued. Local historic designation would be more restrictive but was preferred by other residents.

The 300 homes in the district make up about 30% of the homes in Sag Harbor, village officials said.

Since 2019, 24 properties in the district have been sold with prices ranging from $550,000 to $8.15 million, Hara Kang, a Realtor with the Atlantic Team at Douglas Elliman in the Hamptons, said.

Errol Taylor, president of the Ninevah Beach Property Owners Association,...

Errol Taylor, president of the Ninevah Beach Property Owners Association, is among residents who campaigned for an overlay district. Taylor stands on the steps of his home on Aug. 31.  Credit: Randee Daddona

Errol Taylor, president of the Ninevah Beach Property Owners Association, who lobbied for the overlay district along with two other homeowner associations, told Newsday, "Our proposal addresses the things we need to do to stabilize our community.” 

Sag Harbor Village is a certified local government, or CLG, a federal program administered by the New York State Historic Preservation Office. Local municipalities are encouraged to participate and are accepted if its codes and practices meet state standards. 

LaRocca on Friday told Newsday his administration believes a new overlay district is compatible with the village’s CLG status. CLG municipalities are certified as demonstrating a commitment to local preservation, according to the National Parks website, which administers the program in partnership with the New York State Historic Preservation Office. The benefits of participation include eligibility for state grants for technical preservation assistance, legal advice and training opportunities to increase the ability to protect historic resources. 

LaRocca said one proposal is not better than the other, but each offers preservation components that work in “harmony” with each other. He said the local historic designation proposal, rooted in the CLG process, is a work in progress, and he plans to meet with state historic preservation officials and local historical proponents this week to discuss it.

The overlay proposal calls for things such as prohibiting installing sidewalks, tightening enforcement of existing codes to make it harder to get a zoning variance and increased representation on various village boards with SANS district residents.

Renee Simons, who coined the acronym SANS, led efforts to get...

Renee Simons, who coined the acronym SANS, led efforts to get the communities state and national historic designation. Credit: Randee Daddona

The communities were listed on both the state and National Register of Historic Places in 2019 following a campaign led by Renee Simons of Sag Harbor Hills. She also is pushing for local designation and told Newsday that it offers the best protection against unlimited demolition and transformation of the community’s character. 

On Monday, Simons said the village is contractually obligated as a CLG to inventory properties listed on state and federal registries to determine if they should be added to the village’s existing historic district. She said she plans to continue to press village officials to complete the inventory. 

“If they are not following their responsibility, the question is raised ‘why are they a CLG and why are they getting state monies if they are not doing their job?’ ” she said.

With Arielle Martinez

Latest videos