Housing planned for shuttered Greenport United Methodist Church

Greenport United Methodist Church

The former Greenport United Methodist Church could be converted into as many as four residential lots under a proposal being reviewed by Greenport Village.

The property, which totals 0.77 acres and stretches from Main to First streets, includes the church building and parsonage.

The church went on the market last year after congregation members joined parishioners in Cutchogue, Southold and Orient to form North Fork United Methodist Church. It was recently listed at $1.288 million.

Builder James Olinkiewicz, who said he is in contract to purchase the church property, has submitted a four-lot subdivision application. He attended a pre-submission conference on the application during the Dec. 1 Planning Board meeting.

The church was built on Main Street in 1832 and dedicated in 1834, according to David Corwin and Gail Horton’s book “Greenport,” which states it was rebuilt after an 1847 fire. The parsonage was constructed in 1878.

According to Mr. Olinkiewicz, additions were made to the church in the 1920s and 1950s.

“This has been an interesting project for me to decide to go ahead with,” he told the Planning Board. “The building that faces Main Street, which used to be the Methodist church, has to my knowledge been desanctified and deconsecrated by the church, so it no longer has the classification of a church on it. It is now considered a one-family residence.”

Mr. Olinkiewicz said he plans to demolish the additions and convert the church sanctuary into a residence.

“My thought process is to keep the main sanctuary there and restore [it to] its original beauty,” he said.

In an interview this week, Mr. Olinkiewicz said he also plans to retain the steeple on the church building.

“I’m a believer of saving history,” he said. “All the old houses I buy, I try to save and resurrect them. I haven’t torn anything down, even though some of them are in bad shape.”

The parsonage would also become a residential parcel under the proposal, as would areas where a parking lot and shed currently exist.

One of the new lots would have access to Main Street through an 11-foot-wide driveway near the south portion of the church. But village planning consultant Glynis Berry said 11 feet wouldn’t be enough to accommodate emergency vehicles — and Mr. Olinkiewicz agreed — so it will now be 15 feet wide.

Ms. Berry suggested that instead of a new flag lot, Mr. Olinkiewicz create only three parcels. She also opposed demolition of the two rear additions.

“Flag lots are not an ideal situation and should only be approved for clear benefits, which you do not have here,” she said in a memo read aloud to the board.

Mr. Olinkiewicz said that opting against demolition and instead converting the entire space into a 7,000-square-foot two-family residence would be inappropriate.

“To me, you disrespect the church and what was there,” he said.

Mr. Olinkiewicz added that he would agree to a covenant requiring that the two structures to be accessed from Main Street remain single-family dwellings, although zoning there allows two-family residences.

Planning Board members said they will discuss the proposal further at their Dec. 29 meeting, adding that the project will need to go before the village’s Historic Preservation Commission in early January. It will then return to the Planning Board for a public hearing once the application is formally accepted.

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Photo: The former Greenport United Methodist Church. (Credit: Tim Gannon)