Planning Notes: Housing Alliance can rebuild in Greenport

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Members of the Greenport Planning Board, who said yes this week to the NFHA’s plans to rebuild on Second Street.

The Greenport Village Planning Board has said yes to putting up a new house at 620 Second St. to replace the structure destroyed by fire more than four years ago.

During its first meeting at the Third Street firehouse last Thursday, the all-new Planning Board, appointed Sept. 24, approved the site plan by a vote of 4-0. The Rev. Ben Burns was absent.

The North Fork Housing Alliance, a Greenport-based group that finds affordable housing for low-income residents, has owned the property since 1993, along with an adjacent property at 618 Second St., where another house burned in the August 2008 blaze and was subsequently demolished.

Although the previous Planning Board had approved a site plan for a handicapped-accessible, two-family house at 618 Second St., that lot has remained barren for a few years. The housing alliance has said it plans to start construction on both properties at the same time.

Before last Thursday’s vote, some Planning Board members had questions about drainage and landscaping plans.

Garrett Strang, a Southold-based architect who was hired to design both houses, said stormwater runoff will be maintained on the property through the installation of dry wells. He said he is in the process of finalizing landscaping designs.

Village administrator David Abatelli said after the meeting that the village has attempted to expedite the planning process because the blighted properties have negatively affected the community’s quality of life over the years.

“From the night of the fire to today, it has been a long road,” Mr. Abatelli said.

Mr. Strang, who was the only person to address the Planning Board before the vote, said his new site plan for 620 Second St. includes three parking spaces at the rear of the property.

That change was made after the former board and current Zoning Board of Appeals expressed displeasure during a joint public hearing this summer with the original plan to place the parking area at the front of the house.

Many residents pleaded with the village boards to have the house razed, saying they could still smell the charred wood, especially when it rains. Although severely damaged, the house at 620 Second St. was initially spared because the NFHA believed the three-family structure could be saved.

Renovation work began in February — nearly three and a half years after the fire — once the village cited the alliance and ordered it to stabilize the structure. Shortly after construction began, however, work ceased because engineers found that the structure couldn’t be saved.

The NFHA then determined the charred shell couldn’t be salvaged and demolished the structure in May.

Village officials said both design plans have been approved by Greenport’s Historic Preservation Commission and the houses will be off-white in color.

Mr. Abatelli said he believes it will be another year before construction is completed.

NFHA director Tanya Palmore did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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