Greenport Village drops annexation lawsuit against Southold Town

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | During a special meeting held in a garage at the firehouse on Third Street Thursday night, the Greenport Village Board decided to drop litigation against Southold Town about the controversial housing proposal Northwind Village.

The Greenport Village Board has agreed to drop its litigation against Southold Town over the controversial high-density Northwind Village housing project.

During a January 4 special meeting at the Third Street fire station, the board unanimously agreed to end its attempt to overturn the town’s decision to deny KACE LI’s request to have boundary lines redrawn so that its 17 acres along the south side of the North Road would become part of Greenport Village.

KACE principals Dino and Michael Kontokosta have said that annexation is vital to their 128-unit proposal since Greenport Village zoning laws allow for greater density than do Southold’s. A connection to the village sewer system would also be required to build what the brothers have said would be a mix of condominiums and workforce housing.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he’s pleased with the village’s decision because the town “never had any interest” in moving the boundary lines and is confident the issue won’t be brought up again.

“People have the right to ask, but people need to understand that no means no,” Mr. Russell said. “They were told no from us and now they’ve been told no from the Village Board.”

After Southold Town denied the annexation in 2005, former Greenport mayor Dave Kapell sued to overturn that decision, and the Kontokostas agreed to cover the village’s legal costs.

During a press conference following last week’s special meeting, Greenport Mayor David Nyce declined to disclose how much KACE has spent on the village’s lawsuit. He did say the developers “are current” in paying those legal costs.

While Mr. Nyce said KACE hasn’t indicated it will file a lawsuit against the village to recoup its losses, he said the board acknowledges that “is a possibility.”

A call to KACE for comment was not returned.

Mr. Nyce said the board made its decision after reviewing the project’s final environmental impact statement, completed by the state DEC in September. That report, he said, contained information about the development’s potential effect on the surrounding area that wasn’t available to the village when it filed its appeal nearly seven years ago.

While Village Board members declined to specify what information in the study prompted them to drop the suit, Mr. Nyce said the board ultimately determined after reviewing the FEIS that “it is in the best interests of the Village of Greenport to discontinue or no longer prosecute the litigation.”

According to village documents dated May 12, 2011, the village’s concerns include the development’s potential negative impact on Moore’s Woods, the possibility of increased traffic and other quality of life issues.

Although the board’s decision to drop the case was based on information provided in the FEIS, the board unanimously approved a separate resolution to seek judicial review of how the DEC conducted its study, as well as its findings.

Mr. Nyce said the DEC’s FEIS study doesn’t address comments and concerns the village and town had made on the draft EIS. He also said he believes the study wasn’t properly executed and fails to reflect the development’s potential negative impact on the environment.

“The study that was done did not address our concerns,” Mr. Nyce said. “The process did not do what we had hoped it would and we’re asking for a judicial review [of] that process.”

Village attorney Joseph Prokop said if a court rules in the village’s favor, the DEC’s findings could either be vacated or modified. He declined to say what action the village would then take because those plans are “premature” at this time.

DEC officials declined to comment.

Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, an environmental advocacy organization based in Southold, said he believed the DEC’s undertaking was problematic from the beginning since the majority of the planning for the Northwind Village proposal is subject to local — not state — approval.

While the DEC has jurisdiction over the development’s wetland permit, which would be required because of the project’s proximity to Moore’s Woods, the village and town are the municipalities that will have to approve most planning steps involved in the proposal, including zoning, roadwork and sanitation.

“I think the DEC made multiple efforts to point out that the final design and approval of this site is and should clearly be determined by the local authorities,” Mr. DeLuca said. “The Village Board’s decision brings everyone back to reality.”

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