Fish shop tied to Greenport trustee opened without approvals

Greenport Village Board Mary Bess Phillips. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo, file)
Greenport Village Board Mary Bess Phillips. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo, file)

A fish shop operating in a building owned by the husband of a Greenport Village Board Trustee has been open for business since the summer without receiving proper permits — and a decision made last week doesn’t require it to close while that paperwork is sought. 

North Fork Smoked Fish House, located on First Street in Greenport, is renting space from K & M Properties, for which Village Board Trustee Mary Bess Phillips is the secretary/treasurer and her husband, Mark, is president.

The issue was discussed at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting, where an extension to review the application was agreed on by both parties.

Village building inspector Eileen Wingate said the fish house will need a variance since it’s “processing on a wholesale level,” and does not comply with village zoning. The space had previously been used as a retail market, she said.

On Aug. 25, the Planning Board received from the fish house a “use evaluation” application, which Ms. Wingate described as an abbreviated site plan for smaller commercial properties. The board has also sent the application to the Village Zoning Board of Appeals for review, because the Planning Board believes the fish house’s proposed use isn’t appropriate for the current zoning.

Ms. Wingate said after last week’s meeting that the Planning Board sought an extension through January to review the application because state law says “if the Planning Board doesn’t act in 60 days [from when the application was filed], then it’s considered approved.”

She declined comment when asked by a reporter about the fish house operating without proper approvals.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Greenport residents and Village Board watchdogs John Saladino and Bill Swiskey criticized the Planning Board for allowing the fish house to remain in operation.

“[Ms. Phillips] should have never opened before she had the use of evaluation,” Mr. Saladino said. “She should have never have opened if that operation isn’t zoned for that.”

At one point during the meeting, Planning Board president Peter Jauquet said the board should directly address Mr. Saladino’s concerns.

“It appears to me that it would be satisfactory to you … that the fish house should be shut down and anybody else who’s in violation should be shut down,” Mr. Jauquet told Mr. Saladino. “The building code enforcement officer puts a padlock on the door and we’re the ones that ask them to do that.”

Planning Board member Pat Mundus interjected during the discussion to say “that’s not the scope of the Planning Board.”

Mr. Swiskey said he disagreed with Ms. Mundus and said he believes the Planning Board “has the power” to get involved.

“You did shut down that surf shop, didn’t you?” he asked, referring to Flying Point Surf Shop, which opened up in May prior to receiving final approvals. The shop was forced to close at the time until it received approval from the Planning Board to open up shop — which it eventually did.

Both Mr. Jauquet and Ms. Mundus had expressed concern about Flying Point’s opening at a May meeting.

Ms. Mundus had described the situation at the time as “another example of lack of enforcement in the village of Greenport.”

Mr. Jauquet had told a Flying Point co-owner: “It is not a ‘maybe.’ You have to get approval before opening.”

When contacted by a reporter Thursday night, Ms. Phillips, who wasn’t at the meeting when the comments were made, declined comment.

Smoked Fish House owner Phil Karlin did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified the owner of Flying Point. We regret the error.

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