12/16/13 4:26pm
12/16/2013 4:26 PM

CYNDI MURRAY FILE PHOTO | Village board members hope to define “family.”

Greenport Village board members are expected to discuss amending its definition of family under village zoning code during its work session tonight.

Discussion comes less than a month after the board held its first public hearing on the proposed definition change.

Mayor David Nyce said the change is needed to keep the village code consistent with its newly passed rental regulations law, adding that the new rental rules are “more broad-reaching.”

Currently, the code defines a family as “one or more persons occupying a dwelling unit as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit. More than five persons, exclusive of domestic servants, not related by blood, marriage or adoption do not constitute a family,” according to the existing code.

The board’s definition of family came under fire during public hearings on the rental regulations law.  Residents protested that the limited definition did not take into account diversity and the changing dynamics of modern families. Some went as far as to call the village’s definition of a family “racist” during those hearings. Many of those sentiments continued to be echoed during last month’s public hearing.

The Village Board will take up the issue again tonight at 6 p.m. at the Third Street Fire House.

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08/27/13 10:19am
08/27/2013 10:19 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Village board members agreed to fund $1 million dollars worth of improvements to the power plant Monday.

Greenport Village Board members are split over the village’s proposed rental law for residential properties.

In an unusual move, the board took up discussion of the issue during its regular session Monday night. Debate over pending policies are typically reserved for work sessions.

All agreed the language of the document, which has been called “cruel,” “unjust, and “over the top” by critics during public hearings, needs adjustment.

Trustees took particular issue with the draft law’s definition of a family. Under the proposal a family is defined as two or more persons related by blood and up to five persons not related by blood occupying a dwelling and living together as a traditional family.

Local landlords have repeatedly called the plan racist and unnecessarily restrictive.

“Some issues need to be addressed, such as definition of a family,” said Trustee David Murray. “I’m still in favor of the law. I think we need this to protect the citizens of Greenport.”

The law has been four years in making, Mayor David Nyce said. Village officials have said the code would help eliminate illegal apartments, which can lead to excessive traffic, parking problems, a strain on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns.

“At this point I feel like we have a fairly well written piece of legislation,” Mr. Nyce said. “I looked at the definition of family after last month’s meeting. It allows for people to be connected other than blood relation. It says they should be acting like a family and what families do is support each other.”

Trustees George Hubbard and Mary Bess Phillips stated their opposition to the bill Monday.

“It think it needs more work,” Mr. Hubbard said. “We have laws on the books now that would accomplish this if we just enforced what we had.”

All members, including the mayor, believe the threat of imprisonment should be removed for violators. Fines would still be enacted.

The board directed the village attorney to revise the legislation. It will be re-noticed and discussed at the next village meeting, the mayor said.

Last month, the board closed the public hearing on the issue, but has not yet scheduled a resolution to vote on the draft law.

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07/23/13 10:03am
07/23/2013 10:03 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Greenport landlord Robert Jarosak spoke out against the proposed rental law Monday.

Critics of Greenport’s proposed rental regulation law for residential properties continued to speak out against the proposal at a second public hearing on the issue Monday night.

During the course of the hour-long meeting, local landlords repeatedly called the plan racist and unnecessarily restrictive.

“The way that this is written is discriminating against Latinos,” said Robert Jarosak, owner of the Ludlum Place development in Greenport.

Ludlum Place is home to 16 rental units Mr. Jarosak said he has typically leased to Latino families during his seven years as the property owner.

“I can tell you as far as the Latino population, sometimes the family consists of three close-knit couples,” he said. “So if I lease to six people in a three bedroom apartment now I am a criminal.

Under the draft law a family is defined as two or more persons related by blood and up to five persons not related by blood occupying a dwelling and living together as a traditional family.

“You will pay for this dearly, whether it be a civil rights case or bad press or attorney’s fees,” Mr. Jarosak said.

Village officials say the code would help eliminate illegal apartments, which lead to excessive traffic, parking problems, a strain on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns, but critics say the way the law penalizes landlords is excessive.

Mr. Jarosak said he is selling the Ludlum Place property to an unnamed Riverhead development company due to the village’s overbearing restrictions.

“I can either start a lawsuit or walk away, I’m walking away,” Mr. Jarosak said. “I don’t even need to be here tonight. I’m doing it for the next guy or for me, God forbid it doesn’t sell.”

Another Greenport landlord, James Olinkiewicz of Shelter Island, said he favored strengthening criteria for rental housing to prevent overcrowding and unsafe living conditions, but said that the provisions in the draft law are extreme. He suggested the board meet with members of the housing community to create a safe and fair law.

The board closed the hearing with plans to discuss the proposal at its next work session.

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07/22/13 12:10pm
07/22/2013 12:10 PM

The public debate on Greenport’s proposal rental regulation law for residential properties will continue tonight.

The public hearing will take place during the board’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. at the Third Street fire station.

Village officials have said the code would help eliminate illegal apartments, which can lead to excessive traffic, parking problems, a strain on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns.

During the first hearing hearing last month critics called the draft law “cruel,” “unjust, and “over the top.”

Those found in violation could face fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment.

The board tonight will also hold its annual public hearing to discuss federal and state mandates, commonly known as MS4, aimed at improving water quality.

Under orders from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Conservation, the village is required improve quality in waters that fail to meet federal clean water standards and record and report each plan developed and each step taken.

The MS4 designation means the village must develop, implement and enforce a stormwater management program requiring developers to submit more stringent pollution prevention plans to ensure building projects don’t contaminate wetlands.

The MS4 hearing will take place during the board’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. at the Third Street fire station.

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06/25/13 9:59am
06/25/2013 9:59 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Ed Reale of the North Fork Housing Alliance speaking during the Village Board’s rental law hearing Monday.

“Cruel.” “Unjust.” “Over the top.” Those were just some of the harsh words Greenporters, many of them landlords, used to describe a proposed village law to regulate rentals for residential properties during Monday’s public hearing on the issue.

The proposal aims at eliminating illegal apartments within residential homes, which the board believes encourages the deterioration of the Village’s housing stock – leading to blight, excessive traffic, parking problems, an overburden on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns.

The controversial issue has been in limbo for at least three years, according to Mayor David Nyce. Back in December 2012 the mayor said the draft law was changed because residents had expressed privacy concerns. At that time, the Village Board voted to keep the public hearing open and to send the draft law back to the code committee for further review.

During the past several months the draft ideas have been bounced around in code committee. The proposal was recently amended, however the changes do not satisfy residents.

“This is completely out of touch with village history,” said former Greenport mayor David Kapell, who said the laws regulating rentals that are already on the books are sufficient due to past adjustments to regulations.  “Trustee Hubbard, Trustee Phillips, Trustee Robins you were all here in 1979 when Greenport was described as housing some of the worst slums in Suffolk County. There is just no comparison to the conditions that exist today and the conditions that existed then.”

Furthermore, Mr. Kapell said the new proposal targets the poor.

“I don’t know who wrote this thing but it reads like a fascist manifesto to attack immigrants and low-income families that distinguish this village. It talks about a traditional family. What is a traditional family? Who decides? The mayor? It’s preposterous.”

He went on to say that law-abiding landlords would be subject unfair criminalization under the law and leave many more year-round residents, who rent rooms in private residences, on the streets.

Mr. Kapell was not alone in his opinion. Not a single speaker favored the rental regulations.

“This is a mean-spirited law,” said Ed Realer, founder and member of the Board of Directors of the North Fork Housing Alliance and a real estate agent. “It’s vindictive and unfair and I don’t think that’s how this village has operated in the past.”

Mr. Reale said the law was practically uninforcable and intrusive. “The presumptive evidence is way over the top,” he said.

In a letter submitted to the board, an unidentified resident wrote: “This insults me to my core. What is it about this board that thinks it needs regulate other people?”

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Village Trustees (from left to right) David Murray and George Hubbard and Mayor David Nyce listen to the criticism of the proposed rental law.

The law would establish minimum quality standards for habitation, including partitioned bedrooms and separate entrances, kitchens, electric meters and cable lines.

Homeowners that wish to lease space in their homes would be required to obtain a rental permit. A five-member board appointed by the mayor and approved by the Board of Trustees will review the application.

Those found in violation could face fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment.

The board will readdress the issue on July 22.

06/24/13 2:57pm
06/24/2013 2:57 PM

The Greenport Village Board will hold a public hearing tonight on a law to set rental regulations for residential properties.

Officials said the code is an effort at eliminating illegal apartments, which can lead to excessive traffic, parking problems, a strain on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns.

The code would establish minimum quality standards for bedrooms, separate entrances, kitchens, electric meters and cable lines.

Homeowners leasing space would be required to obtain a rental permit and a five-member board appointed by the mayor and approved by the Trustees would review the application.

Those found in violation could face fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment.

The hearing will take place during the board’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. at the Third Street fire station.

The board is also expected to vote on allowing the consumption of alcohol on public property during special events. The resolution would permit private organizations to serve alcohol at Mitchell Park.

The intent is to allow marina guests to use the park as a reception area, Mayor David Nyce said. The amendment would still prohibit the sale of alcohol and would restrict the events to an enclosed area, he said.

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06/17/13 2:00pm
06/17/2013 2:00 PM

Greenport Village Hall

Greenport Village board members hold a discussion on a potential law that would set rental regulations for residential properties.

The proposal aims at eliminating illegal apartments within residential homes, which the the board believes encourages deterioration of the Village’s housing stock – leading to blight, excessive traffic, parking problems, an overburden on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns.

The proposal would establish minimum quality standards for habitation, including partitioned bedrooms and separate entrances, kitchens, electric meters and cable lines.

Homeowners that wish to lease space in their homes would be required to obtain a rental permit. The application will be reviewed by a five-member board appointed by the mayor and approved by the Board of Trustees.

Those found in violation would face fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Third Street fire station.

A public hearing on the issue is scheulded for June 22 at 6 p.m. at the Third Street fire station.

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10/22/11 8:33am
10/22/2011 8:33 AM

JULIE LANE PHOTO | House on Third Street opposite Greenport Village Hall has been restored by a new owner. It had been in serious disrepair and village officials learned of its problems only after a fire there, enabling them to gain access. A proposed new rental law would require permits and allow for inspections.

The Greenport properties of absentee landlords could soon be subjected to regular inspections thanks to Greenport Village Trustee David Murray.

Concerned about the safety of renters, he has begun to push in the last few weeks for action on a rental code that has been on Mayor David Nyce’s radar for months.

New rules had appeared unlikely to take shape before next spring until Friday, when Mr. Murray described some apartments in the village as “scary” at a meeting of the village code committee. He warned of unsafe electrical wiring that could cause fires and overcrowding that could complicate rescues. He said the village should adopt a rule requiring rental permits and inspections, especially for properties with non-local landlords.

Mr. Nyce countered that he needed to further research several issues before the code committee recommends a new rental code, including:

• The cost of hiring an outside firm to handle inspections so the building department isn’t burdened with the task;

• Code language to exempt landlords of owner-occupied dwellings so they won’t have to apply for permits; and

• Making sure a village rental permit works in tandem with the inspection system already in place for “Section 8” HUD (U.S. Housing and Urban Development) rentals. The village has a number of Section 8 apartments that undergo regular inspections, Mr. Nyce said.

While agreeing with Mr. Murray that safety issues are critical, Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, a member of the code committee, argued that other factors must be considered as well in drafting a new code, including how it would be enforced and whether or not it would have an impact on tax assessments.

For the full story, see Thursday’s Suffolk Times.