Plan to allow Greenport B&Bs to expand on hold awhile

A proposal to allow Greenport bed-and-breakfasts to offer five guest rooms, up from three, appears to be going nowhere fast.

The village code committee agreed Friday to table the issue “for a while,” according to Mayor David Nyce said. That could be for six months or more, he said.

In the interim, the mayor will meet with village attorney Joseph Prokop to discuss criteria to guide the Planning Board, which would be charged with deciding on whether an applicant would be allowed to exceed the three-guest-room policy.

Few B&Bs in the village have either sufficient rooms or parking spaces to even seek such approval, according to village administrator David Abatelli. If the Village Board decides to grant an exception for those who have the space, Trustee and code committee member Mary Bess Phillips wants the law to require public hearings to give neighbors a chance to offer their views.

When the issue first came before the Village Board in the spring, neighbors of Harbor Knoll B&B protested, complaining that owners Leueen and Gordon Miller were already renting at least nine rooms, a charge the Millers denied. They also denied running frequent wedding parties at their B&B, despite advertising, since removed from their website, offering weddings for up to 80 people.

In an effort to separate complaints about a single B&B from the larger issue of whether to loosen the three-room limit, Village Board members sent the issue to the code committee for further review.

The committee is also weighing how to handle B&B liquor license applications. Only Stirling House B&B has such a license, while Harbor Knoll has filed an application and is allowed to serve while its case is pending. State Liquor Authority regulations provide that if guests are either served wine or liquor or bottles are placed in guest rooms, the B&B owner must be licensed. That hasn’t stopped many North Fork B&Bs from advertising that they provide guests with wine.

At issue for Greenport officials is whether they want to allow any alcoholic beverages to be served at B&Bs, which are traditionally located in residential areas.

Trustee and code committee member Chris Kempner wants to require that B&B owners applying for liquor licenses inform neighbors of their intent. Just how to ensure that the owners send the notices remain unclear.

Ms. Phillips said she thought a distinction should be made between offering wine and beer and offering hard liquor. She also raised the issue of the code providing for B&Bs to offer only breakfast, noting that some are advertising brunch, afternoon refreshments and even dinner.

What code committee members have to decide, Mr. Nyce said, is whether to recommend to the full Village Board that no B&Bs be allowed to have liquor licenses or to treat requests on a case-by-case basis. The same approach seems likely on whether B&Bs can serve anything but breakfast. That appears likely to rest with code enforcement officials who respond to neighbors’ complaints, the mayor said.

If the board ultimately decides against allowing liquor, Stirling House B&B could likely keep it’s license, the mayor said. More likely, the village will opt to handle each license application or renewal individually and provide objections to the State Liquor Authority only in cases where there are complaints from neighbors that prove to be accurate. It would still be up the SLA to grant or refuse a license.

The code committee’s agenda also includes regulating rental properties to avoid overcrowding and unsafe conditions and what to do about the proliferation of sandwich board signs, currently prohibited by code, in the downtown area.

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