North Fork Smoked Fish’s new plan raises more questions

01/30/2015 12:00 PM |
North Fork Smoked Fish Co. owner Phil Karlin addresses the Greenport Planning Board Thursday night. (credit: Paul Squire)

North Fork Smoked Fish Co. owner Phil Karlin addresses the Greenport Planning Board Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The owner of Greenport’s North Fork Smoked Fish Co. announced Thursday night that his First Street fish shop would be opening its doors to customers for retail use, hoping to alleviate concerns by the Greenport zoning and planning boards over its operations.

The new plans introduced by owner Phil Karlin positioned the store as a joint retail venture between himself and a local fish market. But that only raised new questions from the Planning Board at its meeting Thursday night.

Now, village officials want a new detailed plan for the space by their next meeting, with Village Attorney Joseph Prokop warning that Mr. Karlin must read — and respect — the village code for retail use.

“Right now it’s not a legal use of the property,” Mr. Prokop said. “You have to show the board members that you meet this rule.” He finished by saying Mr. Karlin must bring his efforts “a couple notches up.”

Mr. Karlin responded with a surprised laugh, saying he was busy working at the fish shop and that he was being respectful and dilligent.

North Fork Smoked Fish House, located on First Street in Greenport, has been operating in the space since the summer without proper permits. Representatives have spent the last few months debating with both boards about whether the production of smoked fish could be allowed.

The business is renting space from K & M Properties, for which Village Board Trustee Mary Bess Phillips is the secretary/treasurer and her husband, Mark, is president.

Ms. Phillips was also in attendance at the meeting to support Mr. Karlin. Both she and Mr. Karlin declined to comment after the meeting.

Ms. Phillips had gone before both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board on Mr. Karlin’s behalf to get the necessary use permits for his business, which they initially said should be counted as a retail store because of online sales.

Some members of the Zoning Board of Appeals balked at that categorization during a meeting last month, with ZBA chairman Douglas Moore saying “front to back, it looks like a manufacturing plant. It’s documented as a wholesale business.”

To address those concerns, Mr. Karlin said the business would now feature a retail component on-site. He also reiterated his view that computers, boxes and production space could be counted as “retail space” for the purposes of the village code because they were related to online sales of his smoked fish product.

Mr. Karlin also mentioned that Alice’s Fish Market would have a display case at the storefront in Greenport as part of the new open-door retail space; the fish market would send employees there to help manage the retail side of the operation.

That raised eyebrows with board members, who said North Fork Smoked Fish Co. would need to file a new application detailing exactly how the fish market and the business would work together and how the space would be divided between retail and manufacturing.

Planning Board member Peter Jauquet said he was “concerned whether that whole thing will be functioning in a retail space.”

Planning Board member Chris Dowling noted several times that the business has been operating without approval for months.

After the meeting, Mr. Dowling and Mr. Jauquet said the board was not “in agreement” on whether to take action against the business for opening without permits. But both agreed: the North Fork Smoked Fish Co. has the next few Planning Board meetings to set its plan straight and make a presentation.

The board members indicated they’re getting tired of waiting.

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