The state Department of Environmental Conservation this week released findings indicating that if mitigating actions are taken, a proposed high-density housing project on property currently outside Greenport village could proceed without major environmental consequences.
The DEC’s report on KACE-LI LLC’s application is a positive step for the developers’ proposed Northwind Village complex, but one legal challenge has yet to be resolved.
At issue is whether the Village of Greenport can or wants to annex a 17.2-acre North Road parcel just outside village boundaries on which brothers Dino and Michael Kontokosta have proposed a 128-unit residential development, half of which they pledged to devote to workforce housing. The site is on the southern side of Route 48, about 1,600 feet east of Chapel Lane.
Southold Town denied the annexation in 2005, and Dave Kapell, mayor of Greenport at the time, sued to overturn that decision.
That case is currently on hold in an appeals court, pending an environmental study. At the time the suit was filed, Mr. Kapell said the Kontokostas would cover the village’s legal costs.
Village support for the project and the annexation waned after Mr. Kapell retired in 2007 and David Nyce succeeded him as mayor.
In several statements made during the environmental assessment, Village Board members have indicated that their thinking does not match Mr. Kapell’s.
“We still need to look at where we stand,” Mr. Nyce said Tuesday.
“What we need is for the village to stand with us before the judge and put an end to this whole discussion,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.
Should the village drop the Kapell-era case, the developers’ options include pursuing their own case against the town and village or proceeding with a scaled-down version of the project that would have far fewer units and comply with the town’s standards.
In the past, the Kontokosta brothers have argued that annexation was vital to the project because of both the availability of sewer hookups and the greater density that Greenport allows.
In an emailed comment following the release of the DEC’s findings, Michael Kontokosta said, “The highest environmental authority in New York State has confirmed, after five years of review, that no adverse environmental impacts exist as a result of the proposed sustainable workforce housing community. We look forward to working with both Greenport and Southold to achieve their stated housing goals in a way that benefits the residents of the village and town.”
If the project were to proceed, the DEC findings said:
• Developers would have to create a 100-foot wide buffer between the Moore’s Woods wetlands and the proposed structures. A row of native conifer trees would have to be planted along the perimeter of the project area, the DEC said. The dense foliage would provide shade for the new forest edge while limiting the spread of invasive plants into the woodlands.
• If the development were to be connected to the village sewer system, Kontokostas would still have to provide a stormwater control system capable of collecting two inches of runoff from impervious surfaces to minimize pollutants that could reach wetlands.
•To mitigate the loss of two acres of woodlands, developers would have to preserve approximately 10.54 acres of existing red maple hardwood swamps, old fields and successional southern hardwood forests through an easement or deed covenant.
• Although there is no endangered or threatened wildlife on the property, the development would have to provide for a new nesting area for box turtles on the property’s western edge. The development construction could result in the “increased mortality of adult box turtles,” the report said. That would have to be mitigated by installing a small earthen and timber rise along the development perimeter that would create a vertical barrier to protect box turtles moving from the woodland towards the development and returning to the woodland.
• While increased lighting at the site isn’t expected to impact Cooper’s or sharp-shinned hawks in the area, the developers would need to install lights that meet dark skies standards.
The report noted that in 1983, the Kontokostas received Southold Town approval for a 108-unit condominium development on the site. Another alternative was to develop the property in line with high density zoning within the town, which would allow 50 single-family attached units. But revised town regulations would bring that number down to 44 units.
“The amount of vegetation to be cleared and the setback from the wetlands were very similar in all of the development alternatives,” the report states.
The greatest differences among the various proposals stems from the fact that under the 128-unit and 108-unit plans, both of which require annexation, the village would be providing sewer service. The smaller plans that would keep the development within Southold Town would require on-site sewage treatment unless Greenport agreed to extend sewer service to the development, as it does to some other customers outside its boundaries.