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Will bulkhead job be completed before public hearing?

07/24/2015 6:00 AM |

TGreenport Yacht and Shipbuilding’s bulkhead proposal will be subject to a public hearing before the Greenport Village Board, as well as review by the village Conservation Advisory Council.

However, the work has already begun and is said to be close to completion.

The public hearing on the application to remove and replace about 345-feet of existing bulkhead with a new 200-foot bulkhead needs a wetlands permit from the village.

Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding is owned by Steve Clarke, a former village mayor, and the contractor on the application, Costello Marine Contracting, is owned by John Costello, who is a former village deputy mayor.

“How can you schedule a [CAC] visit to a project that when, we get there, will be completed?” asked John Saladino, a member of the CAC, at Thursday’s Village Board meeting.

“How can you schedule a public hearing on a completed project? How can the public comment on a project that’s already complete?”

Mr. Saladino said the work began without permits.

“In the past it was, ‘go and do something and ask for forgiveness later,” Mayor George Hubbard Jr. responded. “We’re trying to break that trend and get people to do things the proper way and follow the procedure.”

He said the village wants to “at least issue the permit after the fact so it doesn’t set a precedent.”

Mr. Saladino said the village issued a stop-work order on the project.

“Why was it allowed to continue?,” he asked.

Once they found out the project had a state Department of Environmental Conservation permit, Mr. Hubbard said, he and village attorney Joe Prokop and village administrator Paul Pallas discussed the case and decided to let the work continue.

“It’s rare that we go against the DEC,” he said.

“For 45 years, I’ve been here, I never knew I had to have a village wetlands permit,” Mr. Clarke said Thursday. “I now know in spades and I will never ever even dream of doing something without a village wetlands permit.”

He said neither he nor Mr. Costello knew a village wetlands permit was required until recently, after the work had begun.

Nonetheless, he said, the public hearing “is unnecessary and counter-productive.”

Mr. Clarke said he’s had ongoing DEC permits for projects like rebuilding docks, bulkheads and marine railways for decades without ever having a village permit for that work.

He received a DEC permit for the current bulkhead rebuilding job on July 10, he said. A previously issued DEC maintenance permit had expired in April.

The July 10 DEC permit has 24 conditions, including a number of environmental requirements, Mr. Clarke said.

A previously issued “notice of complete application” from the DEC stated that the project is not subject to the state environmental quality review act, because it’s considered a “Type II” action, Mr. Clarke said.

A Type II action means an environmental impact study of the project is not required.

Mr. Clarke acknowledged the project will nearly be complete by the time the Aug. 27 public hearing takes place. He suggested eliminating the requirement for a public hearing.

Former Village Trustee Gail Horton urged the board to support Mr. Clarke’s project.

The shipyard, she said, “is a very important part of our working waterfront.”

Mr. Prokop said the DEC’s recommendation that an environmental study is not needed for the project has no bearing on the village’s decision to schedule a hearing on the wetlands permit.

He said that because the project already started, there was the potential for damage to the upland if it wasn’t finished or was held up.

Trustee Doug Roberts asked: “Do we have documentation of that?”

Mr. Hubbard said that wasn’t put in writing but there was a verbal agreement.

Mr. Roberts voted against the CAC resolution,  saying he didn’t want to “waste the CAC’s time” because whatever they said wouldn’t matter.

“I have very little documentation and I’m voting on something that I’d need a time machine to undo,” he said.

“I believe Steve didn’t known but maybe the next people are going to pretend they didn’t know,” Mr. Roberts said.

“This wasn’t a backdoor deal, it wasn’t trying to ram anything through,” the mayor said. “This was just trying to help out a long time Greenport business owner that was in a jam, that made a mistake.”

The resolution to set the public hearing Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. was approved 4-0. Trustee Jack Martilotta was absent on military duty.

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