Greenport ZBA postpones opinion on North Fork Smoked Fish

(Credit: Paul Squire)
The Greenport Zoning Board of Appeals and Greenport Village attorney Joe Prokop, far right, listen to Mary Bess Phillip’s statement during the board’s meeting Wednesday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Is North Fork Smoked Fish House in Greenport a retail store or is it a manufacturing plant?

The Greenport Village Zoning Board of Appeals has decided to take another month to figure it out.

After a 40-minute long discussion over village zoning and where the fish shop’s usage fits, the ZBA decided Wednesday night to hold off on giving its “interpretation” of the code. The Planning Board, which is currently reviewing the fish shop’s site plan, has requested the ZBA’s official opinion.

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 fish shop had been open since the summer without proper permits, and is now going before the village’s ZBA and Planning Boards to get the necessary approvals.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Ms. Phillips represented the North Fork Smoked Fish House and said that while the building isn’t open to the public, it should still count as a retail store because of its online sales.

Ms. Phillips said online retails accounts for 70 percent of the company’s sales while the other 30 percent comes from wholesaling to local fish markets and stores.

“The seafood industry has gone beyond traditional sales,” she told the board, noting that there’s no definition for “retail” in the village code.

“There’s been a lot of miscommunication on this one,” she said about the building’s usage.

Ms. Phillips said the owner of the fish shop, Phil Karlin, and one employee use the space to package and prepare smoked fish for retail sales.

ZBA chairman Douglas Moore said he believes the business sounds less like a storefront and more like a factory.

“Front to back, it looks like a manufacturing plant,” he said. “It’s documented as a wholesale business.”

Mr. Moore said he had concerns over a section of village code that allows manufacturing and processing as long as it takes up no more than 20 percent of the total floorspace of the business.

He said he believes North Fork Smoked Fish House primarily functions on a manufacturing level, which he said makes the usage inconsistent with village code.

Other ZBA members questioned the code’s language.

Dinni Gordon said village zoning “does not take into consideration the modern Internet sales sector” and felt the fish shop’s current usage fits the spirit of the law.

Charles Benjamin cited surf shops that make their own boards or coffee stores that brew their own coffee as examples of “manufacturing” in the village. He said he believes the size of what the fish shop is manufacturing doesn’t require it to use 80 percent of its floorspace for retail.

Mr. Moore responded by saying those examples have happened in a “retail environment” and he believed North Fork Smoked Fish House isn’t a retail store.

Since the ZBA had to leave the meeting room in the Greenport firehouse at 7 p.m., the board decided to table a decision on whether to issue an interpretation of the code until next month’s meeting. Mr. Moore told the board he’ll be unable to attend that session.

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