Neighbors speak out against Greenport apartment plan

Many of the same neighbors whose objections last spring blocked a subdivision at 216 Monsell Place in Greenport are back to try to stop another project the same developer has for the lot.

Thomas Spurge asked the Zoning Board of Appeals May 18 for a use variance to build a two-story accessory garage with an apartment on the second floor.

The structure is proposed to be 25 feet by 75 feet, although Mr. Spurge said last week he would be willing to scale it back. The property is in an R-1 district that permits one-family detached dwellings, not to exceed one residence per lot.

Neighbors expressed skepticism that Mr. Spurge, who owns five village properties, would add only one dwelling above the garage. Some fear the creation of a second apartment on the ground floor, which should be garage space.

ZBA members are concerned that not everyone who should have been notified of last week’s public meeting received the required letters. They want to expand the current notification requirement, which involves alerting people on the same block, to include everyone within a 250-foot radius of the property. They also want time to review requirements for rendering a use variance.

Village law says that to gain a variance, an applicant must prove that current zoning blocks a sufficient return on investment.

Neighbors have argued that Mr. Spurge’s lot is too small to accommodate his building and that the application is little more than an attempt to overcome last June’s defeat of his effort to subdivide his lot. At that time, he wanted to create two substandard lots.

After last year’s denial, Mr. Spurge warned he might go to court to try to try to overturn the decision, but no case has materialized.

Mr. Spurge, who said he’s been portrayed as an interloper who doesn’t care about the village, maintained he has improved properties and that the unit he’s proposing above the garage would provide affordable housing for a single person or a couple.

His agent, architect Rob Brown of Fairweather-Brown, said he’s “perplexed” at people complaining about Mr. Spurge’s effort to create an affordable apartment. He also he objected to a description by one neighbor, who said the planned building would be “ticky-tacky.”

“My designs have been called a lot of things, but ‘ticky-tacky’ is not one of them,” the architect said. He and Mr. Spurge maintain the village has been encouraging the creation of affordable housing units.

The board deferred further action until a second public hearing is held in June.

The ZBA also deferred action on two other applications.

The board called for an accurate site plan before acting on Ali Sahin’s application for a variance for the construction of a canopy over the gasoline pumps at Mr. Robert’s on the northwest corner of Front and Third streets.

Board members also want to take a look at signage at Trader Bill’s in Sterlington Commons before deciding whether to approve a change in the lighting.

All three applications are expected to be back on the ZBA agenda June 15.

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