Pictured Above: Commercial fishing boats and ‘head’ boats are making a comeback alongside the busy North Ferry terminal to Shelter Island.

Big changes are underway in the little Village of Greenport, with sweeping changes planned to the village code, new tools and hires for code enforcement, and new faces at Village Hall.

The Village Board is poised to hire a new village clerk and a new village attorney this month, after a controversy this past spring over former Clerk Sylvia Pirillo’s order to the attorney to write letters to the challengers in the village election denying their petitions to be placed on the ballot.

Three of those challengers, whose names were later placed on the ballot after much public outcry, went on to win seats on the village board, including new Mayor Kevin Stuessi.

Mr. Stuessi announced at the second of two “Vision for Greenport” community listening sessions on July 6 that Candace Hall, “a very special community member who is from one of the founding families of Greenport,” will be named Village Clerk at the board’s July 27 meeting.

Ms. Hall, who ran for Southold Town Clerk in 2021, currently heads up administration at the Peconic Community School. She’s a former preschool teacher, a small business owner and licensed insurance broker/agent.

Mr. Stuessi also announced the retirement of longtime Village Attorney Joseph Prokop, who will be replaced by two attorneys with a deep background in municipal law from Harris Beach PLLC — Jared A. Kasschau and Brian S. Stolar. They are also slated to be formally appointed on July 27.

At the second “Vision for Greenport” session, held July 6 at the Greenport Theater, Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who is heading up the subcommittee working on code changes during a downtown development moratorium, also unveiled their code change suggestions. The village has pledged that the moratorium, which could be in effect for up to six months, will expire when the code changes are adopted.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, whose district lines were recently re-drawn to include Southold Town and Greenport Village, was on-hand for the second visioning session. The longtime Assemblyman, who chairs the Assembly’s Local Governments Committee, stressed his commitment to the village making its own land use decisions, a concept known as “home rule,” and pledged his support at the state level for Greenport setting its own course.

Here’s our coverage of the first ‘Vision for Greenport’ session.

Pictured Above, clockwise from top left: The section of Front Street currently zoned for marine use that would be rezoned as Commercial Retail, in line with the current retail businesses there, as part of the code updates; The Greenport Yacht & Shipbuilding Company as seen from Preston’s dock; A 1960s-era painting by Frank Verni of the bait shack that is now Little Creek Oysters hangs in his son Michael Verni’s new shop, “Silver by the Sea,” slated to open on Front Street this summer; The entrance to the shipbuilding company as seen from Carpenter Street — preserving the property’s historic use as a shipyard is a priority of the village.

The board is slated to set a mid-August public hearing on the code changes at its July 27 meeting. We’ll have the date of that hearing as soon as it is available.

The proposed code changes include rezoning a portion of the Waterfront Commercial properties downtown as Retail Commercial — these are properties along Front and Main streets that do not have access to the water and are currently already being used as retail shops.

After hearing from the public that residents believe Greenport has enough bars and restaurants and hotels, these establishments would be removed as conditional uses in the Waterfront Commercial zoning district, and would become conditional uses in the Retail Commercial District. Existing business would be allowed to remain so long as no “substantial expansion” occurs.

Ms. Phillips expanded on the Code Updates Committee’s work at the Village Board’s July 20 work session, along with Planning Board Chair Tricia Hammes and Zoning Board Chair John Saladino, who have both been involved in drafting the code updates.

Among the changes they are suggesting are the creation of an entertainment permit process, whereby business owners obtain a two-year permit from the planning board, after which it can be renewed administratively if they don’t receive citations for violating the terms of the permit.

The changes would also likely include subjecting new conditional uses to the village’s parking fund requirements, said Ms. Hammes, since these types of businesses generate much of the congestion downtown, while not requiring new businesses that are permitted uses to pay into the parking fund.

Board members said they hope this change will encourage small mom and pop retailers to open up shops in the village.

A primary purpose of the code updates was to make sure Greenport encourages the continuation and expansion of marine industries that made it the port town it is today.

“We heard from the community. They want the village they know,” said Ms. Phillips. “Our port is a deep port, and there’s a lot of discussion about repairs. Hopefully the shipyard could expand, and there’s a whole effort going on right now to process squid on Long Island. Right now calamari is being processed in Rhode Island.”

Ms. Phillips added that the the code updates are designed to dampen the residential demand for waterfront property that has been overtaking the space used by historic marine industries up and down the East Coast.

“We don’t allow condominiums anymore,” she said, adding that the recently completed condo complex “123 Sterling is it. It’s the last in my lifetime. I’m putting my foot down.”

She added that some of the language in the proposed “marine industry” zoning definition is broadly worded because of “things that might be in the future.”

“Other industries are down the road — raising seaweed and other things in the commercial industry, out in the bay and the ocean. There’s also an opportunity for raising other types of shellfish, perhaps a Peconic Bay Scallop hatchery,” she said.

Hospitals would be a conditional use in the Waterfront Commercial zoning district under the proposed changes, with a definition that allows for “a sanitarium and treatment of emotionally disturbed, epileptic and drug dependent patients… so long as this is not the primary use of such institution.”

It would also require hospitals to “include customary emergency medicine facilities for the treatment of a broad spectrum of illnesses and injuries.”

Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, on Manor Place on the edge of Sterling Harbor, is a 72-bed hospital, with the majority of its beds devoted to patients undergoing care for psychiatric issues and drug dependence.

“My particular concern is making sure we have an emergency room and treatment facilities,” said Mr. Stuessi.

Village Trustee Julia Robins, whose father was a neurologist who was deeply involved with epilepsy treatment, said she didn’t think ‘epilepsy,’ a neurological condition, should be included with psychiatric disorders. She added that ELIH has the only emergency room that handles psychiatric emergencies on the East End.

“I don’t think we should cater to this particular hospital, but we should be able to get their feedback on the definition,” said Trustee Patrick Brennan. “It would be worth testing it against them.”

The proliferation of private yacht clubs was also a concern to the drafters of the code updates, but “I don’t think there’s any way to say you can’t have a private yacht club,” said Ms. Hammes. She did say the village would be able to prohibit yacht clubs from acting as nightclubs, which has begun to happen on the South Fork.

She added that nightclubs are “defined and banned” in the code update.

Much of the waterfront land on the east side of Sterling Harbor, including several large marinas, is outside of the village boundaries on land governed by Southold Town zoning. Some bulkheading and the land on which Portobello restaurant sits is in the village, said Ms. Phillips, but another restaurant on that side of the harbor, Billy’s by the Bay, is outside of the village.

Southold Town is currently embarking on updates to its zoning code, and Mr. Stuessi said he intends to work closely with the town on drafting of code updates both there and at the western edge of the village, in the vicinity of the 7-Eleven and Riverhead Building Supply on Route 25.

The move of much of lower Main Street and eastern Front Street into the Retail Commercial district would allow second story accessory apartments over those stores, much of which is already existing but is not permitted in the Waterfront Commercial district.

The village has just purchased new software, GovOS, to enable it to better enforce its short term rental laws, and has just hired a second code enforcement officer, Michael Elco. Mr. Stuessi said the village will soon be able to instruct the public as to how to file code enforcement complaints on weekends, when Village Hall is closed.

The accessory apartments in the Retail Commercial district “are not required now to be affordable. They’re just required to be year-round,” said Ms. Hammes. “Farther down the line, there might be a third floor bonus allowed for affordable housing. But that’s later. We’re just looking at the changes we need to go through to get through the moratorium. That’s next on our list.”

“This is some phenomenal, in-depth and very well-considered work,” said Trustee Brennan after the zoning update presentation.

The current draft of the changes is in the agenda packet for the July 20 work session. We will provide a link to the final set of changes prior to the public hearing.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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