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Claudio’s project fast-tracked; goal to complete work before Memorial Day

The new owners of Claudio’s got a “fast-tracked” approval of their wetlands permit at Thursday’s Greenport Village Board meeting, as officials expressed concern over the disruption the work could cause for other businesses if Claudio’s doesn’t complete construction by Memorial Day. 

The wetlands permit was needed to replace bulkheading in three areas at the waterfront site.

Normally, when the board holds a public hearing on a wetlands permit application, it doesn’t vote on the proposal until the following month, at the next Village Board meeting.

On Thursday, the board held the hearing and also decided to vote on the application at the same meeting, at the urging of board member Julia Robins.

“I think that if the contractor doesn’t finish with this work by Memorial Day weekend, it’s going to have a serious impact on the downtown business district,” she said. “Right now, I counted about 30 to 35 [parking] spaces [in the Claudio’s lot] that are barricaded off [because of ongoing work].”

Ms. Robins worried this would have customers at the three Claudio’s restaurants searching for parking elsewhere in the village.

“Plus we have a new hotel here and they’ll have an additional impact on our parking,” she said. “So I’m very concerned that we give these people the opportunity they need to get to work right away.”

John Costello, the marine contractor for Claudio’s, said one of the bulkheads in front of the restaurant was built in 1952 and is “eminently dangerous” and could collapse.

“It’s been falling over for almost 15 years,” Mr. Costello said. “I have seriously repaired it several times during that time.”

A temporary deck was placed over it “because somebody is going to fall through a hole,” he said.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said another issue facing Claudio’s is that their permit with the state Department of Environmental Conservation expires Aug. 18. She questioned if the work could even be done by then.

Mr. Costello said if someone told him to do the job now, he could get it done by the current expiration of that permit. He said he will make an application to renew the permit. The DEC and Army Corps of Engineers permits must be in place before the wetlands permit can be issued, officials said.

Tora Matsuoka, whose company is managing the restaurant for PWIB Claudio Real Estate LLC, the new owners, said by phone Friday, “We will definitely have everything open by Memorial Day.”

He said one of their goals is to remain open year-round.

Trustee Doug Roberts, in his last meeting on the board, said everyone wants Claudio’s open by Memorial Day, but he asked why the wetlands permit wasn’t applied for earlier.

Mr. Matsuoka said they acquired the property in April of last year and it was in bad condition then. He said they didn’t realize that the DEC and Army Corps of Engineers permits that were already in place needed to be transferred to the new ownership name. He said the Army Corps permit took a long time to get because of the government shutdown.

“We’re not looking for any special treatment,” Mr. Matsuoka said. “Our main concern is safety.”

The village’s Conservation Advisory Council, which makes recommendations to the board on wetlands permits, also suggested that, consistent with the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, Claudio’s should install a pumpout station, and it should provide a maintenance schedule that will certify that the bulkhead will last 30 years.

The board eliminated that requirement Thursday after Mr. Costello questioned how anyone could guarantee a bulkhead for 30 years. Instead, the town is requiring an “ongoing maintenance schedule” for the bulkheads.

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