Greenport Village Board hears basement apartment ban

Residents challenged Greenport Village Board members Monday night to explain why they want to ban basement apartments.
There probably aren’t more than half a dozen basement apartments in Greenport, former trustee Bill Swiskey said.
“I don’t understand the purpose of this law. I think this is just overkill,” he commented at Monday night’s hearing on the matter.
His neighbor, John Saladino, doesn’t have a basement apartment but argued that a future owner of his property might and he sees no reason to prohibit it.
Trustee Chris Kempner, who sponsored a proposal to limit apartments, argued that basement apartments pose problems for firefighters in the event of an emergency. Also, flooding problems caused by the village’s high water table would become more critical if more people were living below ground level, she said.
Some basement apartments might start out as legal in terms of adherence to New York State building codes, Ms. Kempner said. But owners make changes that result in potential health and safety problems. The law would make the village code more restrictive than state requirements and that’s reasonable, Ms. Kempner said. There are other instances where the village code is more strict, she noted.
Resident Doug Moore argued that the building code should apply to basement apartments and that it should make clear what requirements are.
Mr. Swiskey said he wanted an emphasis on code enforcement, with inspections of buildings to assure they’re safe.
Board members voted to close the public hearing on the subject, but to delay further discussion of the proposal until the June 21 work session.
A public hearing on the Bay to Sound Integrated Trails Initiative ran into no opposition, despite early rumors that residents along Silver Lake in the village might object to a walking path through what has been their own secluded haven.
The proposed path would cross village, town and county land and would enable hikers and bicyclists to follow a trail from Mitchell Park on Peconic Bay, through Moore’s Woods and Silver Lake to Clark’s Beach on Long Island Sound.
“I’m strongly in favor of it,” resident Jada Rowland told the board. Resident Leueen Miller called it “a great idea.” At the same time, she expressed concern about environmental impacts and safety issues.
An environmental study is under way to look at flora and fauna along the proposed trail, Trustee Michael Osinski said. He noted that one rare orchid has been identified that would have to be protected.
As for safety, Mayor David Nyce said there wouldn’t be a way to close down the trail at night, but others suggested a trail is safer than dense woods.
Former trustee Bill Swiskey said that if money is spent to develop the trail, the village would have to commit to maintaining it. Mr. Osinski wondered if some of the community preservation fund money that has been raised from the sale of properties in the village might be applied to maintenance. But John Sepnoski, who was at the meeting representing the town of Southold, said that currently CPF money can be applied only to the purchase of land for preservation, not maintenance.
The board kept the public hearing open and agreed to allow further comment at its June 28 meeting.
Work on the wastewater treatment plant project is about 30 days behind schedule, largely due to weather delays, utilities chief Jack Naylor told the board. Efforts will be made to get the project, still in its infancy, back on schedule, he said. The board has requested regular updates to track the progress of the project, which is largely being paid for with federal stimulus funds.
Resident David Bauer got approval to create three 4-by-8-foot raised-rim community garden plots near the split-rail fence along the South Street side of the village firehouse property. The permission was granted with the understanding that the gardens must be properly maintained and that, if they become inactive, the group that created them will return the land to its original condition.
Artist Arden Scott got approval to do beautification work at Monument Park at the intersection of Sterling Street and Sterling Avenue.
As expected, Diana Van Buren has resigned from the Historic Preservation Commission because she will no longer be a full-time village resident. David Murray has been appointed chairman of that commission.
Lara McNeil will replace Penny Coyle as chairwoman of the Planning Board and Victoria Swensen has been appointed to fill Ms. McNeil’s seat.
The board authorized the Southold Transportation Commission to place a three-sided kiosk near the gazebo on Adams Street, close to Main Street.
If you loved the Fifth Season Restaurant on Front Street and mourned its loss to Port Jefferson a couple of years ago, there’s good news. It’s coming back. Owner Eric Orlowski secured a letter from the Village Board Monday night asking the New York State Liquor Authority to grant his application for a liquor license without the usual delay. Mr. Orlowski will continue to operate the Port Jefferson restaurant as well. He left the village after losing his bid to add a second story to the Front Street premises.
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