Pictured Above: The Greenport Village Board at the final public hearing on Oct. 10.
After six formal public hearings and several meetings with the Greenport Village community and business district, the Greenport Village Board unanimously adopted a broad series of zoning code changes at its Oct. 19 work session, and lifted a downtown development moratorium slated to expire on Nov. 2.
Village Trustee Patrick Brennan cast the sole ‘nay’ vote against an associated proposed local law updating the village’s zoning map because he said he had reservations about changing the zoning of a property owned by the Peconic Land Trust on Fourth Street from residential zoning to parkland.
“A privately owned park would be an anomaly in the Village of Greenport,” said Mr. Brennan.
Village Mayor Kevin Stuessi said the remaining members of the board felt strongly that the property should be zoned parkland, and the village has had conversations with the Peconic Land Trust about the property some day being taken over by the village.
“I appreciate your concerns. I think the benefits of this are great in many ways,” Mr. Stuessi added, referring to several other zoning map changes.
One of the primary features of the map changes was a change in zoning designation from “waterfront commercial” to “retail commercial” for a portion of the south side of Front Street, which is currently primarily retail shops, which have had to go through the onerous process of obtaining variances because the uses permitted in that zoning district are such things as sales of bait and processing of seafood.
Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who has been chairing the Code Updates subcommittee working on the changes, said part of the impetus to embark on the zoning changes was the frequency with which the Zoning Board of Appeals was hearing requests for variances from the waterfront commercial uses on this section of Front Street.
“There is nothing that is ever going to be perfect, but for the first time in a long time, I’m seeing the village in a place where we talk about things, put them on the table, and are working hard at engaging the community,” said Ms. Phillips.
Mr. Brennan said that it is his hope that the rest of the zoning changes “will be a net positive for the community. Is it perfect? Probably not. Will there be unintended consequences? Maybe. Has it been crafted thoughtfully, intentionally and responsibly? I say yes.”
One of the most contentious changes initially proposed was to require large new hotels, bars and restaurants, and significant expansions of existing hotels, bars and restaurants to pay into the village’s parking fund.
Though board members said their intent was to do away with parking fund payments for smaller retail businesses, village business owners, concerned about their ability to expand, made clear their displeasure with the proposal. The village’s Business Improvement District hired an attorney who argued before the board that the village would have to conduct a parking study before requiring payment into a parking fund.
The village eventually adding a provision allowing applicants to request a “parking needs assessment report,” rather than require a set payment to a parking fund.Other language was also added ensuring that existing businesses can rebuild after a disaster. The new process is underlined in red beginning on page 52 in this draft of the code amendments under the heading “Parking Impact Mitigation Fee.”
“I think the law we’re putting on the table here now is a work in progress,” said Trustee Julia Robins. “It’s going to be a continuing, ongoing thing. Keep coming to speak to us.”
“I recognize with anything like this, It’s never going to seem perfect in everybody’s eyes, but I believe the work that’s been put into it was done with a lot of thought, consideration, research and intelligence from other communities,” said Mr. Stuessi.
The board also unanimously approved the administration of a new entertainment permit and permit fee waiver for a new, two-year entertainment permit outlined in the code changes. Businesses that apply and pay for an entertainment permit through Dec. 31, 2023 will pay $125 for a two-year permit — half the regular price, while businesses that apply in 2024 will pay $250. The village will begin enforcing the entertainment permits on May 1, 2024.
Work on numerous other Greenport code changes is ongoing, including work on the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, Harbor Management Plan and potential affordable housing incentives.
“I’m looking forward to the conversations, and to hearing from residents and the business district,” said Ms. Phillips.