Village officials call for stiff penalties for those who build without permits

It’s becoming a familiar refrain from Greenport’s Planning Board: Are the deliberations a waste of time since many villagers push ahead with building projects without permits and only seek approvals if they’re caught.

Board member Amy Martin raised the issue anew last Thursday, saying she’s especially tired of businesses that open without prior authorization.

“It does kind of make us feel like, ‘What are we wasting our time for?’ ” said chairwoman Lara McNeil.

Ms. Martin asked that violators be fined for every day they operate without proper clearance.

That wouldn’t work under Greenport’s code, according to village administrator David Abatelli. He did say merchants could be charged double the fee for their applications when they do finally seek approval. The fee could even be tripled in the case of a business that operated in violation and received a stop-work order, he added.

Merchants take a risk by opening without proper permits in place, Mr. Abatelli said.

“Property owners think they have divine rights,” Ms. Martin said.

Board member Eileen Rich said they should be clearly notified of extra costs for violations.

No one on the board pointed fingers at any of the applicants who came before them on Thursday. D’Latte owner Frank Purita, who is looking to expand into the Main Street space long occupied by Townsend Insurance, had previous run-ins with the board.

In 2008, he was accused of violating his certificate of occupancy by installing additional kitchen equipment. Former Mayor David Kapell stepped in on Mr. Purita’s behalf, saying a redesign of the business was in the works that would resolve that problem.

Earlier, Mr. Purita was accused of using space he leased in Stirling Square to make gelato without a permit. Mr. Purita subsequently gave up that site and returned to his gelato operation at 218 Main St.

Mr. Purita now plans to expand his business beyond gelato, pastry and coffee to include food such as sushi under the name Sasuke.

He has once again put the application in Mr. Kapell’s hands. Board members have said the former mayor’s understanding of the code makes their work easier.

The combined space would also include a warm-weather garden behind the Townsend building.

Joseph Townsend, whose father built the structure in 1962, has run his insurance business out of that office for almost 42 years.
“Change is difficult,” Mr. Townsend said Monday morning. But he said the new space he expects to occupy in Southold, at the old East End Insurance Company building on Route 25, is better suited to his staffing needs. Last September Mr. Townsend joined forces with Neefus-Stype Agency.

As the owner of an existing business, Mr. Purita is under no obligation to provide parking, Mr. Kapell said. When pressed by board member Jack Reardon about the increasing difficulty of finding parking in the downtown area during the summer season,

Mr. Kapell responded, “That’s a question for the Village Board.”

Mr. Purita doesn’t foresee the need for additional lighting and said he will change the insurance company’s signage only to reflect the building’s new use.

“The strategy here is less is more,” Mr. Kapell said. “There’s virtually no change to the facade.”

In other actions, the planners approved the operation of Metal Monk, a jewelry design company, at 15 Front St. The business operated on the northern side of Front Street for eight years.

They also gave permission for Dale Suter of Vintage Vault, at 125 Main St., to open an antique store.

Mr. Suter appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission for review of signage and building color on Monday. But HPC members want another look at his store before deciding whether or not to let him keep the black color he painted the storefront.

After the HPC acts, he will have to return to the planners so they can sign off on the plans.

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