About 20 people turned out at Greenport Village Hall Thursday afternoon to support the North Fork Art Collective’s proposal to open a “studio/retail space” at 15 Front St., but it turned out that most of them didn’t need to speak, as the board was already prepared to approve the application.
When it began time to ask for public input, acting Planning Board chair Mary Given said, “before you tell us that this is a great idea for Greenport, we agree.”
“We are all ready to approve it, so you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to,” said John Cutugno, a planning board member.
No one spoke in opposition to the proposal.
The collective, a group of seven artists whose work often has a nautical theme, actually had the same use just four doors east, and is simply relocating to a different storefront. The collective had to find a new home as Kate’s Cheese Co. is looking to open there soon.
The Planning Board approved the same application last July, at 19 Front St., as a “retail/cooperative art studio.”
After debating Thursday as to whether this new site is a gallery or studio, Michael Solomon, an attorney representing the collective, said the same use that was approved in July at the other location should be applied to the new site, and the Planning Board agreed.
The site is located in the Waterfront Commercial District, which permits both studios and galleries.
Village Administrator Paul Pallas said that state law requires two bathrooms that are open to the public for a gallery and one for a retail use
But, Madison Fender, one of the artists in the collective, said it is not a gallery.
“We have a working studio space,'” she said. “We make work and we hang it on the wall, and if customers want to come in and see what we’re working on, they can purchase something, but we don’t identify as a gallery. And that’s not what we were approved for in the first place.”
In the end, the planning board decided it should be considered a studio/retail space and only one bathroom is required.
The collective had been issued a notice of violation for a Dec. 19 pop-up concert held at its prior location, and while planning board members said that wasn’t the subject of the hearing Thursday night, the issue of allowing public gatherings at the studio was raised, as officials said the maximum occupancy of the storefront is 45 people.
Mr. Solomon said the gallery generally doesn’t have large groups of people.
“It’s a small, intimate group,” he said.
The village has been trying to bring artists into the community for 30 years, he said.
The Village Board of Trustees is considering changes to the section of its code dealing with public assemblies. The North Fork Art Collective was not fined for the concert, according to Mr. Pallas.
Photo caption: Artists Kelly Franke, Madison Fender and Kara Hoblin peer over instant photographs at the current North Fork Art Collective in Greenport the week it opened. (Credit: Vera Chinese file photo)
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified attorney Michael Solomon.