Sign outside Greenport Fire Department stays lit

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | An illuminated sign outside the Greenport Fire Department sparked a minor controversy.

Although it was put up without a permit, the Greenport Fire Department can keep its new illuminated sign lit — for now.

The sign installed late last year at the Third Street firehouse sparked a minor controversy when in December Mayor David Nyce asked the department to shut it off until it obtains village permits. The sign displays the time, weather and community announcements.

It became the topic of an hour-long discussion at the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Wednesday and although the board did not issue a variance that night, it did rule that the sign need not stay dark as the review process continues.

Village Administrator David Abatelli noted the unusual nature of a village entity seeking a permit from a village board. Although all other North Fork fire districts operate separately from local government with their own elected board of commissioners, Greenport’s fire department is a part of village government with the Village Board serving as commissioners.

“The fire department is a part of the village, so is the ZBA,” Mr. Abatelli said. “It gets complicated when the application is coming from within your own organization.”

Doug Moore, chairman of the village’s ZBA, said although the village code for permitting signs is focused mainly on stores, the code’s purpose is to deter the potential “Times Square” effect of a commercial district.

“A break in communication apparently occurred,” he said. “The fire department is expected to follow village code.”

Mr. Moore described the public hearing as “a good meeting” during which the FD explained the sign’s function and community benefits.

The ZBA closed the public hearing and by law must come to a decision within two months. The earliest a vote could occur would be at the ZBA’s March regular meeting, Mr. Moore said.

Richard Lark, the fire department’s attorney, was not immediately available for comment.

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