Greenport ZBA not pleased with new transcription service

Greenport Zoning Board of Appeals members refused to accept two written decisions this month, lacking confidence that either one accurately reflected their concerns about the requested variances.

That’s because board members no longer have access to verbatim transcripts of prior meetings to refer to as they review the decisions drafted by village attorney Joseph Prokop. The village used to tape meetings and have them transcribed verbatim, but has switched to a transcription service that maintains the full minutes, but provides the village with only a summary that includes actual decisions.

In the first case, the board was poised to accept the written document concerning a variance they verbally approved last month, allowing James Olinkiewicz to subdivide his property at 314 Center St. But ZBA member David Corwin questioned whether there had been sufficient discussion of concerns about potential flooding and other possible environmental impacts. Lacking verbatim minutes, board members tabled the decision pending receipt of a complete transcript of that portion of the Oct. 19 meeting.

Similarly, members balked at approving the written decision on a request by Trader Bill’s to use a backlit sign outside the store in Sterlington Commons. ZBA members had verbally denied the request. But Mr. Corwin said he didn’t understand why the written decision referred to an area variance when the original request had been for a sign that failed to meet code. Mr. Prokop agreed to review the written decision.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, only two comments — both by letter and both favorable — were received during a public hearing on an application from George and Jackie Sarkis for plans to build a front porch and a rear addition at their house at 144 Bay Ave. The couple easily received approval for several variances. Comments from the village’s Historic Preservation Commission and neighbor Michael Solomon both praised the project.

The Sarkis’ architect, Frank Uellendahl, who chairs the commission, had recused himself from the discussion when other members considered the project.

But at the ZBA meeting, Mr. Uellendahl explained that while several area and lot use variances were needed for the project, the house would substantially be restored to its original form. There were no zoning codes in place when it was built, Mr. Uellendahl said, and a previous owner had stripped the building of its front porch. The HPC letter signed by member Caroline Waloski praised the proposal for holding to the historic significance of the neighborhood.

Mr. Solomon, who lives directly across the street from the Sarkis house, characterized the plans as “a real plus” for the neighborhood.

“It seems like a great project; I have no criticisms of it,” Mr. Corwin said. The vote to approve the variances was unanimous.

A controversial proposal from William Rountry to construct an in-ground swimming pool at his home at 157 Fifth St., is on hold while the owner gathers additional information requested by ZBA members in October. Neighbors have objected to the plan, arguing that noise would change the area’s ambiance.

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