To raise revenues without hiking taxes, Greenport Village is looking to lease its 8.9 Soundfront acres at Clark’s Beach.
In 2009, the village sold 6.3 acres of the beach to Suffolk County, to be preserved for recreational use. But since the economy hit the rocks, there have been few opportunities to sell the rest.
Spurred by Trustee Chris Kempner to explore whether the village could make some money leasing the site, Village Board members voted unanimously Monday night to issue a request for proposals to determine if there’s any interest in a leasing deal.
In raising the question of how to add operating funds, Ms. Kempner pointed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to pass a 2 percent tax hike cap for next year. With the village more than $7 million in debt and debt payments due to escalate by 2014, she said the village must find new non-tax sources of operating funds.
Ms. Kempner also wants the village to explore leasing the now-clean site of the former scavenger waste plant on Moore’s Lane. Mayor David Nyce deferred action on that, saying he’s awaiting a letter from Southold Town confirming that the site is in pristine condition and can be put to an alternative use.
Ms. Kempner also said the village should seek grant money to expand McCann Campgrounds. She previously suggested renting out space in a Mitchell Park building once used by the harbormaster for various events.
FULL SPEED AHEAD
Over objections from former utilities chief Bill Swiskey, but with approvals from the New York Power Authority and bond counsel, board members increased their bonding authorization for work at the Greenport Power Plant from $1.75 million to $2.45 million.
Mr. Swiskey insisted the village is exceeding its borrowing capacity for the job without a commensurate rate hike necessary to pay off the debt. But Mr. Nyce said the rate hike approved few years ago covers the extra borrowing.
At the previous week’s work session, the board took steps to apply for extensions on funding for the wastewater treatment plant project. When contracts were signed in July 2007 for the $4.1 million federal stimulus grant for the project, the village anticipated the work would be completed within four years. Delayed by foul weather and contractors’ lack of coordination, the completion date has been pushed to early next year.
The anticipated increase in sewer rates will be the subject of a public hearing during the board’s June 27 meeting, Mr. Nyce said.
THEY SAY THEY MEAN BUSINESS
Memorial Day weekend could bring enforcement of new parking regulations in downtown Greenport. The village had hoped to have parking meters installed and a traffic control officer patrolling, but they’re just seeking bids on the meters and don’t yet have a traffic control officer in place to start this weekend. However, both are in the works and enforcement could happen soon, according to Mr. Nyce.
Drivers might also notice new signs at Webb Street that prohibit vehicles from traveling east between Second and First Streets. Too many accidents resulting from the convergence of traffic at the intersection of Webb, First and Main streets led the board to change the traffic flow. The signs went up this week.
NO SMOKING or HANGING SIGNS
Villagers have until the close of business on Tuesday, June 7, to submit comments in writing on two proposed code changes.
One would ban smoking within 30 feet of a playground or carousel as a means of protecting children. The other would enable merchants to put up hanging signs over village sidewalks. The signs would be limited in size and would have to be properly secured and business operators would have to show proof that they are insured. Merchants have always been able to hang such signs on their own properties, but a few have put them up where they hang over village streets.
Mr. Nyce is coordinating with Peconic Land Trust on plans for the Exxon-Mobil property at the end of Fourth Street to be covered in natural plantings that the trust would initially maintain. Exxon-Mobil would like that to happen, since it no longer uses the site for business, the mayor said.
The mayor said he hopes to work out an agreement for payments in lieu of taxes with Exxon-Mobil, which currently pays about $12,000 in village taxes, and a possible deal with Southold Town that could result in access to community preservation program funds available for long-term site stewardship.
MARITIME FESTIVAL FOOD
Village Board members are wondering how to accommodate vendors at September’s annual Maritime Festival, the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation’s primary fundraiser, without commercializing Mitchell Park or angering local merchants.
Trustee Mary Bess Phillips has suggested limiting vendors to those with a maritime connection. But Mr. Nyce wants to allow food vendors in the park and take them off Front and Main streets so they’re not competing with local restaurants. Ms. Phillips questioned the need for food vendors since there’s plenty of food and drink available from established village businesses.
Museum board chairman Ted Webb has said he needs the vendors because they provide financial support for the festival, but he’s willing to work with the village to limit the use of Mitchell Park and do what he can to cooperate with local merchants.
SCHOOL’S ALMOST OPEN
On June 17, the village plans to celebrate for the opening of the old schoolhouse on Front Street opposite First Street. Ceremonies are slated for 11 a.m. and will also honor the dedication of Mitchell Park, which occurred June 29, 2001.
NO MONEY FOR SHAKESPEARE
Mr. Nyce’s plea to provide funding for a Northeast Stage production of “Romeo and Juliet” in Mitchell Park this summer fell on deaf ears during the work session. As the village cuts spending, the board has been providing less financial help to that group and other nonprofits. The mayor’s call to give the company $2,000 drew no support.
NO DANCING IN THE STREETS
Sterling Place neighbors who want to hold a block party there on June 25 will have to choose another venue. Village Board members were unanimous in rejecting an application to close the street from 4 to 11 p.m. because it’s one of the access roads used by emergency vehicles bound for Eastern Long Island Hospital. While some downtown streets are closed off for the Maritime Festival, board members said they’re loath to close off other streets for block parties.