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Changes may come to controversial Greenport condo and commercial project

Owners of a waterfront property in Greenport, where condominiums and commercial space are allowed, are considering some changes to their plans for the site, which  were approved in 2007. 

The principals of 123 Sterling LLC had been trying to market the site with the stipulations that accompanied that original approval, which resulted from a settlement involving developer Richard Raskin, the Sterling Basin Neighborhood Association, village Trustees, the Planning Board, and Zoning Board of Appeals. But they did not find interest in the property, and are now looking into scaling back the waterfront commercial uses that were approved in 2007, Mr. Raskin said. 

“Our objective is to revise those approvals to make them a little bit more pertinent to the current circumstances of that general community,” Mr. Raskin said in an interview. The surrounding community is more residential than commercial, he said. Marina activities would remain, he said. 

Plans first submitted in 2003 had called for a 14,480-square-foot commercial structure with artists lofts, a scallop processing operation, marine-oriented retail and office uses and boat storage racks. The 1.72-acre property, on the south side of Sterling Avenue, comprises two different tax parcels. One parcel is split-zoned, part Waterfront Commercial and part R-2 residential, and the other is Waterfront Commercial only. 

Neighbors challenged the village Planning Board’s approval of the site plan in Suffolk County Supreme Court in 2005 and appealed when the court upheld the board’s decision. 

The ZBA later determined it was a legal nonconforming use and neighbors went back to court, appealing again after that suit was dismissed in 2006. Neighbors had argued that the marine commercial uses were non-conforming on the residentially zoned parcel and didn’t comply with village code.

Ultimately, the parties looked to settle the issue and agreed to stipulations, which led to the plans that were approved in 2007. Those plans called for a three-story building that would have waterfront commercial operations on the first floor and a total of 17 residential condominiums of varying sizes on the second and third floors. Five of those units were meant to be priced as affordable housing. 

The settlement also included stipulations that 123 Sterling LLC set aside units with residency restrictions for people who had either lived or worked in Greenport for at least two years, and set a maximum price for affordable units at $175,000. 

On May 15, Mr. Raskin presented conceptual plans at an informational meeting for the village boards and residents on possible changes. The plans shown that evening were not set in concrete, he noted, saying that residents were invited to provide feedback. 

“It’s the beginning of a discussion,” Mr. Raskin said. “It’s step one in what will probably be a process. We’re open to some suggestions.”

In the new concept for the site, the first floor would be used mostly for parking for the residential units, with some commercial space, he said. The second and third floors would still be residential units, and the principals are considering  asking permission for more than 17 condos, Mr. Raskin said. 

The village had encouraged developers to retain a housing component in the plans, he said. 

Neighbors attending the May 15 meeting, which was video recorded, wondered how more units than were originally approved would impact density. Others raised concerns that the project would increase traffic flow in the neighborhood. 

Ellen Schnepel, co-chair of the Sterling Basin Neighborhood Association, said at the meeting that she thinks 123 Sterling LLC should stick to the approved plan and change its outward appearance to one that better fits the community. 

“It took us so long to get to the original one that you’re now scrapping,” she said. The neighborhood association will be reactivated, she said. 

If the plans are modified and submitted to the village, all parties in the settlement would have to agree. Otherwise, the principals would consider submitting entirely new plans to the village, Mr. Raskin said. 

Greenport Village Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said he and village administrator Paul Pallas had met with 123 Sterling LLC in recent months and let them know what they can and can’t do according to the settlement. A changed site plan would have to go through the same process as any other plan, Mr. Hubbard said.

“They got public comment, people asked them questions and they know how the neighbors feel about it, so now they have to decide what they want to do with their business plan.” Mr. Hubbard said. 

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Photo caption: The proposed building site. (Kelly Zegers photo)