Greenport Moratorium Discussions to Continue, as New Committee Gets to Work on Zoning Update
The Greenport Village Board will not vote on a potential moratorium on development in three downtown business districts until its Feb. 23 meeting, at the earliest, while the board incorporates suggestions made by the village’s planning board and by the Suffolk County Planning Commission, which is slated to discuss the moratorium at its Feb. 1 meeting.
In the meantime, the village’s new volunteer Waterfront Advisory and Planning Committee, which is charged with developing code changes during the moratorium, has hit the ground running, dividing up into three subcommittees that have already begun to meet, Village Mayor George Hubbard told the crowd gathered for a public hearing on the moratorium Jan. 26.
That hearing will be held open until Feb. 23. Mr. Hubbard added that, after receiving comments from the village’s planning board earlier that day, more changes may be made to the proposed moratorium, possibly necessitating a new public hearing.
A temporary administrative moratorium remains in effect, during which the village is not accepting applications for work in the village’s General Commercial, Retail Commercial and Waterfront Commercial zoning districts.
The full moratorium includes a process for applying for a hardship exemption to allow some emergency work to continue.
Members of the public have turned out in droves at recent village board meetings, and hundreds have signed a petition asking for a moratorium, during which the Waterfront Advisory and Planning Committee will prepare a draft update of the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which was first prepared between 2010 and 2014 but never adopted. They will also be charged with updating the village’s zoning code to reflect the manner in which Greenporters want to see the village develop in the future.
Mr. Hubbard said committee members have already received training from planning experts at Pace University, and the three subcommittees will address the LWRP, zoning and code changes and infrastructure, respectively.
“I’d like to commend everybody that’s volunteered their time,” he said.
A handful of members of the public commented at the hearing, many reiterating points they’d made at prior hearings.
Andrew Aurichio, owner of the former Greenport Auditorium on Main Street, which had long been a furniture store, said he is planning to restore the auditorium and he doesn’t know how the moratorium would affect the work.
“I’m not sure where you’re going with the moratorium, because I’m not really for it,” he said. “We should be opening up Greenport, not shutting it down.”
Mr. Hubbard said Mr. Aurichio could ask for an exemption to the moratorium to restore the auditorium.
Mark Boyle and David Gilmartin, an applicant and attorney for a proposed new 22-room hotel at the intersection of Main and Front streets, both reiterated their opposition to the moratorium, stating that the village is not facing overdevelopment and their project is being singled out.
“There’s a real dichotomy. People who have no skin in the game want the moratorium, and business people say ‘this will hurt us,’” said Mr. Gilmartin.
Sarah Phillips, an owner of First and South restaurant, begged to differ.
“I think it’s the creation of a false dichotomy to say business owners and residents are not aligned,” she said. “My husband and I support the moratorium. The unique nature of the village is derived from this delicate balance between the working waterfront and being attractive to tourists.”
“We can see in just two short ferry rides (to Sag Harbor) what a village looks like when it becomes a shopping mall that is unaffordable to residents,” she added.
Leueen Miller, the owner of the Harbor Knoll Bed & Breakfast on Fourth Street, said she’s lived in Greenport for 50 years and she signed the petition for the moratorium, even though she doesn’t take signing petitions lightly.
“I have seen what has become of Greenport,” she said. “I would like to see all aspects of Greenport — the business community, local residents, the cultural aspect and the school system, come up with a comprehensive plan that represents the needs and interests of a broad section of the local community. I’m strongly in favor of giving breathing space to all factors of society in Greenport.”
Village Planning Board member Tricia Hammes urged the Waterfront Advisory and Planning Committee to hold community meetings to ask for input.
“A lot of people have given this a lot of thought and have interesting ideas,” she said. “Without community input and getting their buy-in up front, the process is going to become people standing up here saying ‘I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do that.’”