Planners mull whether to allow gas station signs that include prices

Does a gas station have the right to post signs big enough to include prices that passing drivers can see?

That’s the question the Greenport Planning Board is mulling after Ali Sahin, owner of Mr. Robert’s convenience store and gasoline station at the corner of Front and Third streets, asked for permission last week to post an extra sign clearly showing his fuel prices.

Mr. Sahin was selling regular gas for $3.199 last week, making his the lowest price in Greenport and equal to the price of the Valero station on Route 25 in Cutchogue, the lowest on the North Fork.

But because his signage is limited by village regulation to a single 4-by-4-foot identification sign on a pole, customers can’t see his prices until they pull up to the pumps and look at the small signs posted on them.

Mr. Sahin and his agent, former mayor Dave Kapell, asked the Planning Board Thursday to approve a new pole sign that includes prices. Any new sign — even if it replaces an existing one — requires board approval.

The argument the gas station must be free to post its competitive prices “is kind of questionable for me,” Planning Board president Lara McNeil said.

Board member Amy Martin didn’t question the need to post price information, but she said she was concerned about the sign having to be larger than allowed by code. And her colleague David Bauer said he could accept something like a 3-by-3-foot sign with a separate smaller sign attached below it or what he called “a box listing pricing.”

There’s was no decision last week, but if the planners turn down Mr. Sahin’s request, he will probably have to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals to seek a variance, he said. Mr. Sahin expects to do that to seek permission to put a canopy over his gasoline pumps, Mr. Kapell said. The planners turned down the canopy last month on the advice of the ZBA, which found that a variance would be necessary to accommodate it. The ZBA had been asked only for an advisory opinion. There was no application pending at the time for a variance.

Public Hearing
The public will get a chance next month to weigh in on a proposal to create a restaurant where White’s Bait Shop is currently located in Bootleg Alley off Front Street. On Thursday the board set Feb. 3 at 5 p.m. as the date for a hearing on the plan. Richard Webley, his wife Lucy and business partner Erin Fitzpatrick are proposing to rent the building from owner Cheryl Inzerillo to operate an eatery from May to November. Their plans call for providing table service both inside and outside and takeout food, especially geared to boaters docked at the Mitchell Park Marina.

This is the second time in the last few years that a food service operation has been proposed for the site. Three years ago, BBQ Bill’s wanted to use it essentially as a fast-food operation which local restaurateurs opposed. This time a more upscale menu featuring local foods and wines is being proposed, using baskets with real silverware for their takeout service, charging a refundable fee until the baskets and silverware are returned. That would address concerns about litter from disposable utensils, the applicants say.

The restaurant would be a conditional use in the waterfront commercial district.  Planning Board members have already warned that it could be a tough go in gaining approval if there is opposition.

Changing Their Ways
Planners may ask the Village Board for a code change requiring neighbors to be notified by mail when applications are being considered in their area. Neighbors get letters when a Zoning Board of Appeals application is pending but Planning Board applications, which are advertised in newspaper legal ads, don’t require personal notifications.

That’s riled neighbor Jeanne Cadden and her attorney, Bill Moore, who didn’t know about the Layyah convenience store on the southeast corner of Front and Fourth streets having been approved until after the fact. Ms. Cadden has concerns about rainwater from the store lot flowing onto her adjacent property.

The store has remained open since the summer without a certificate of occupancy, but Greenport’s building department is nearing final approval of a CO as soon as a few minor issues are resolved, according to village administrator David Abatelli.

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