Trustees see a plot in letter

05/27/2010 12:00 AM |

The simmering feud between two factions of the Greenport Village Board boiled over Monday night when Trustees Michael Osinski and Chris Kempner charged that they weren’t getting important information in the same timely manner as the other board members were getting it.

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The immediate issue was a letter drafted by village attorney Joseph Prokop dealing with builder Colin Ratsey’s proposal to add a building to his Route 25 site, which abuts property owned by the village.

Despite assertions by Mayor David Nyce and Trustees Mary Bess Phillips and George Hubbard that they received Mr. Prokop’s draft on Monday, at the same time it was sent to all board members, Ms. Kempner and Mr. Osinski persisted in their claims that some board members are being treated differently than others.

“I am tired of hearing that certain trustees are favored over others,” said Ms. Phillips with fire in her eyes after prolonged argument. She has been targeted by Mr. Osinski and Ms. Kempner on more than a few occasions, when they have accused her of being the trustee favored by the mayor.

Mr. Prokop confirmed that he had sent his draft to board members on Monday. Mr. Hubbard said that because he doesn’t have access to a computer during the work day, he only saw the controversial letter at 5:30 — just before the 6 p.m. Village Board meeting.

Both Mr. Osinski and Ms. Kempner initially balked at approving a poorly worded resolution asking board members to approve the letter to be sent to the Southold Town Planning Board by May 31. In fact, what Mayor David Nyce said he wanted was not approval of the letter as written, but agreement among board members to rework the draft via e-mail this week so that it could be sent to the town by Friday.

Although the board has had ample time to respond to the Planning Board’s request for village input on the Ratsey plan, there was no response until Ms. Phillips made a point earlier this month of asking Mr. Prokop to draft a letter listing the village’s concerns.

Without a letter from the Village Board, the Planning Board would be free to move ahead on Mr. Ratsey’s application with no village comment.

The board on Monday finally voted to approve reworking the letter to be sent by week’s end.

Board members did agree on one thing Monday night: They considered Mr. Prokop’s letter too stern. The letter wasn’t made public, but Mr. Prokop said his aim wasn’t to take any stand — pro or con — on Mr. Ratsey’s application, but to provide board members with structure for their consideration of pertinent issues.

Mr. Osinski characterized Mr. Prokop’s draft as “extremely negative” and said he thought from previous discussions that most of the board favored Mr. Ratsey’s project.

Mr. Nyce said he favors the proposal, but agreed that the letter needed a change in tone.

It’s not the first time Mr. Ratsey’s project has generated debate among Village Board members. In February, the same two trustees charged that Mr. Nyce was trying to strike a secret deal with the builder that would allow Mr. Ratsey to construct his proposed 8,960-square-foot building, doing a swap to clean up other nearby wetlands in exchange for being allowed to build where he wanted on his own property.

Mr. Osinski and Ms. Kempner wanted to know who gave Mr. Ratsey and his agents a right to do any testing or work on village property. Mr. Nyce insisted he never gave a go-ahead for the Webb Street cleanup project and said he had discussed the Ratsey proposal during an executive session. That session reportedly occurred before Ms. Kempner and Ms. Phillips were on the board.

When the February debate occurred, Ms. Phillips blamed a breakdown in communication at Village Hall for the board’s not receiving notice of a 2008 town ZBA hearing on the project. That notice, she said, got lost in a pile of papers sent to village administrator David Abatelli instead of to board members. But town officials assured Village Board members they would have ample notice to comment on the project before the Planning Board acts on a site plan.

Earlier in the meeting on Monday, Ms. Kempner and the mayor exchanged accusations about a proposal to appoint seven people to a steering committee to deal with the upgrade of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. All seven were later appointed.

None of the board members are included on the steering committee, which prompted Ms. Kempner to say that she felt the board would be abdicating its responsibility. Not so, Mr. Nyce said. The committee consisted of people whose experience would enable them to contribute to the project, he said. The appointments were also being made in line with advice he received from both the New York State Department of State and project consultants Saccardi and Schiff, he said. The Village Board would continue to have final word on all phases of the project, the mayor said.

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