ZBA OK’s use of cabs, though taxis are already running

04/17/2014 5:11 PM |

Greenport Village Hall

Last night, Greenport’s Zoning Board of Appeals gave the green light to an application for a taxi service on Front Street before making it appear before the Village Planning Board — a necessary last step when it comes to adhering to village code. But the business went into operation before getting ZBA approval, and the village has no plans to reprimand owners, building inspector Eileen Wingate said.

Layyah, a convenience store on the southeast corner of Front and Fourth streets in Greenport, has been running a two-car taxi service for about a month in an effort to establish a customer base before the busy summer season, manager Imran Qasim Khan said Wednesday.

His comments came immediately following a village Zoning Board of Appeals meeting where members decided in a 4-0 vote that village code permits taxicab services to operate within the downtown area. The application had previously been pushed to the ZBA from the Planning Board after Planning Board members tabled a decision until ZBA members could interpret the code.

Layyah’s application will go before the village Planning Board early next month for final approval.

Earlier this year, Mr. Khan submitted an application to the village’s Planning Board requesting permission to run a taxi service from his store at 331 Front Street.

Concerned that village code did not support such a business — especially one that would operate within a convenience store — the Greenport Planning Board previously tabled a decision on the application until ZBA members could interpret the code.

The ZBA had scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday meant to discuss the matter, where Layyah’s neighbors mostly took aim at Mr. Khan’s specific use on the property — adding that a taxi stand couldn’t help things on-site.

Six speakers voiced concerns about Layyah’s current business practices. Among them were accusations of strewn trash, loitering, unkempt landscaping, public urination and possible drug dealing surrounding the property. Each said they feared the addition of a taxi service would increase those problems and create new ones, like traffic congestion.

“It is frustrating that he doesn’t take care of his property, ”said Jeanne Cadden, who owns a home near Layyah on Fourth Street. “If you’re going to allow another business in there, please look into what is going on there now.”

For neighbors, it was an all-too-familiar debate: the convenience store opened in the summer of 2010 and didn’t obtain a certificate of occupancy from the village until the following January.

It was subsequently cited by the village for violating code, Ms. Wingate said at the time, but the village had no means to fine Mr. Khan. Greenport Village and Layyah owners found a middle ground at the time, since the building conformed to code at the village’s request before earning Planning Board approval.

Since then, some of the store’s employees have had a couple of run-ins with the law. In October 2013 and February 2014, state police arrested a Layyah worker for selling alcohol to underage customers.

“Since this store has opened we haven’t noticed any positive impact on our neighborhood,” said Adrianne Greenberg, who represented the Congregation Tifereth Israel synagogue diagonally across from Layyah at the meeting.“This place is uncared for, it is dirty and it is an embarrassment.”

ZBA members said that any comments regarding Layyah’s taxi cab proposal would need to be saved for the next Planning Board meeting.

In the meantime, Mr. Khan said he’ll continue to provide cab service from the store.

The Planning Board is set to discuss the application during its next work session on Thursday, April 24. A vote on the matter is expected early next month.