The Greenport Village Board unanimously adopted an administrative moratorium on development in three key business districts at a special meeting Friday night, Dec. 2, to take effect immediately in anticipation of a public hearing on a six-month moratorium on Dec. 22.
After months of discussion on how best to chart the village’s future, members of the public turned out in droves to the village’s November meeting asking the board to consider the moratorium, in light of great recent interest in the village on the part of developers.
Both the administrative moratorium and the longer-term one up for public hearing Dec. 22 are on development in the village’s General Commercial, Retail Commercial and Waterfront Commercial zoning districts, with the exception of permits for emergency work to be authorized at the discretion of the village’s building department.
During the moratorium, a new Waterfront Advisory and Planning Committee would be charged with preparing a draft update of the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, first prepared in 2014 but never adopted, and updating the village’s zoning code to reflect the manner in which Greenporters want to see the village develop in the future.
The process is designed to “protect and preserve the working waterfront of the village, water dependent uses in the village, the orderly development of the village, and the protection and preservation of the character of the Village of Greenport,” according to the resolution adopted Dec. 2.
Village Mayor George Hubbard said he had prepared a list of seven people to serve on that committee, but after public feedback urging the board to expand the committee, he said he will look to increase the number of committee members to 15 before announcing their names publicly.
He also urged members of the public to email himself or the Village Clerk with suggestions for updates to the LWRP and village code.
“I would love to have 75 emails next week from everybody saying ‘this is my vision,'” he said. “That way everybody is heard.” His email address is email@example.com, while Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Village attorney Joseph Prokop told the board at the special meeting that the proposed six-month moratorium would need to be approved by the Suffolk County Planning Commission before it is enacted, a process that could take up to 45 days, meaning it is possible the board would not be able to adopt it on Dec. 22 after the public hearing.
Numerous residents and business owners spoke in favor of the moratorium at the Dec. 2 meeting.
“I think, overall, the draft is thorough and well-thought out,” said Tricia Hammes, a member of the village’s Planning Board. She added that she wants to ensure property owners in the affected districts can repair their bulkheads, and that people whose homes are in those commercial districts can still work on their houses.
Frequent board critic William Swiskey said he doesn’t understand why the moratorium is needed.
“Most people don’t work on the waterfront in Greenport anymore,” he said. “They work as carpenters or in restaurants. That’s simply not true. We all live in the present reality. The fishing boats are not coming back. That’s just the way it is.”
“I don’t know what kind of Village of Greenport he lives in,” said Roselle Borrelli, who works in the office at North Fork Welding. “Boats come in from Cape May in New Jersey to be fixed in Greenport by North Fork Welding. If it weren’t for our shipyard, where would boats be hauled out? We have a lot of new people coming in every day, all oystering, getting winches. It’s a wonderful industry. They work really hard. They are out there risking everything. It’s an entire industry in this village. In what world of Greenport Village do you live? You don’t live in my world.”
“We now have interested, smart people wanting to take a deep dive into this,” said Stacey Tesseyman. “We can’t be, as a village, working with something (the LWRP) from 1996, based on code from the 1970s.”
She added that she didn’t hear Mr. Swiskey say what the harm is in having a moratorium and updating the code.
Oyster grower Karen Rivara, of Carpenter Street, said she believes waterfront uses will be key to the village’s future.
“We do have businesses that are water-dependent,” she said. “I think in the future we may see more of those businesses, related to fishing and shellfish farming.”
Deborah Rivera-Pittorino, an owner of the Greenporter hotel, said she didn’t see anything in the proposed local law about creating parking or preserving housing for residents, or preventing people from “using their homes as hotels.”
“We have people being displaced, including my employees,” she said. “$3,500 a month for a one-bedroom is not affordable to a young working person.”
“What’s stopping us from creating waterfront jobs?” she asked. “Short-term rentals aren’t being enforced. We can’t even figure out how to enforce parking and fix our sidewalks. I don’t know how a moratorium is going to fix that.”
Marine contractor John Costello urged the board to hire a professional planner to help them with the update.
“You’re all part-timers. You can’t devote 100 percent of your time to this,” he said. “Get the help you need.”
Kevin Stuessi said that he was heartened to see the owners of Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding and Prestons, the largest property owners in the village, had signed the petition asking for the moratorium.
“Greenport is still considered a disadvantaged community by New York State, because of our makeup and resiliency issues with the waterfront,” he added. “If we put in a grant, it will go to the top of the pile.”
Planning Board member Patrick Brennan urged the board to keep the community engaged in the process so they will support it.
Deputy Clerk Jeanmarie Oddon also read several letters into the record, including one from Little Creek Oysters co-owner Ian Wile.
“I’ve long been a strong proponent of a long-term plan that can be our guide, with forward-looking, collective goals,” he wrote. “No plan at all is creating unnecessary levels of anger, fear and panic. I’ve long been against moratoriums in general — I find them to be a lazy solution — but I would embrace it if it was connected to concrete deliverables. A forever moratorium is my fear.”
He added that the village is also facing a dual threat of development pressure and small businesses that are closing, and urged the board to make it possible for small businesses to open in vacant storefronts in spite of the moratorium.
“We could accidentally overcorrect ourselves into more significant vacancies, he said.
The public hearing will be held at the board’s Dec. 22 meeting at 7 p.m. at the Third Street Firehouse.