Greenport’s Historic Preservation Commission rejects completed work

Greenport’s Historic Preservation Commission took what may be an unprecedented step Monday night, refusing to approve an already completed project that fails to meet the municipality’s code.

The commissioners voted 3-0, with two absent, to require Victoria Filonenko of 843 Main St. to remove vinyl siding from a new garage in her yard. Ms. Filonenko will have to have the vinyl stripped from the building and replaced with wood or HardiePlank, the panel agreed.

The village has long had a reputation for failing to enforce its code, allowing both commercial and residential projects for which permit applications were never filed with the building department. Typically, when the department discovered the construction and refused to issue a certificate of occupancy, the owner appeared before the necessary boards and got permission to occupy the structure with only a slap on the wrist.

This time, member Frank Uellendahl delcared he was “frustrated” being asked “to approve something we would not have approved,” had it been submitted for review prior to construction, as the rules require. He announced he would vote against any resolution to approve the siding. Commission chairman David Murray and member Meghan Mills followed suit and voted with him to turn down the application.

“We’re lowering our standards” by approving work that doesn’t meet code, Ms. Mills said in casting her vote.

Ms. Filonenko, who wasn’t at Monday night’s meeting, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Construction on village-owned property isn’t currently subject to review by the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals or Historic Preservation Commission, but thanks to the Village Board, the HPC did get a swing at a proposal for an LED sign to be placed outside Greenport’s Third Street firehouse.

Village administrator David Abatelli assured HPC members that the sign hasn’t yet been purchased and told them they were welcome to comment on the proposal.

“You could say you don’t like it” if that’s the case, Mr. Abatelli advised.

At the same time, he noted the firehouse isn’t in the historic district and that there’s no  formal application from the fire department for review of the proposed sign.

In the past, when a project outside the historic district came to the commission, it did so by way of a referral from the Planning Board requesting an advisory opinion.

Given that the firehouse, on the northwest corner of Third and South streets, is in a residential area, Mr. Uellendahl said he would have liked neighbors to weigh in on the plan. But he had no power to require a public hearing.

“I hope people don’t say this is too bright and too garish,” he said.

Ms. Mills said she thought the sign would be a step up from “shoddy” signage she’s seen, but also that she hoped the lighting would be at a low level of intesity.

Village code makes no specific mention of LED lights, but it does ban neon lights, even though several Greenport businesses have them. Scrimshaw restaurant on the dock at the south end of Main Street did receive a variance in 2009 to use a neon sign at the sidewalk because the restaurant is recessed from the street and hard to spot.

The house at 620 Second St. that has been troubling neighbors since 2008, when it was badly damaged in a fire that destroyed an adjoining house, could be rebuilt fairly soon. Plans for the North Fork Housing Alliance-owned structure passed muster with HPC members and architect Garrett Strang said he was working with the alliance to develop specifications so the project can be put out to bid.

“We’re not going out to bid tomorrow,” he said, but he did want — and he got — approvals for most of the plans.
At the same time, Mr. Strang left the door open to a return to the HPC if a few aspects of the plan prove too costly for what he described as a tight budget and need to be revised.

The housing alliance, which provides Section 8 low-income housing in the area, has been delayed in its efforts to rebuild pending reviews by New York State, which provides funding for the program.

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