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Greenport Village may increase fines for noise violations

The Greenport Village Board discussed increasing fines for noise violations at its work session last Thursday, including potentially increasing the fines for repeat offenders.

The issue of noise was a hot topic in the village over the summer. 

The new owners of Claudio’s, PWIB Claudio Real Estate LLC, were hit with several noise complaints this season, but officials say other businesses and locations also received noise violations or were the subject of noise complaints.

The monthly village enforcement reports, for instance, include complaints about music from Mitchell Park, from the corner of 4th and Wiggins streets and one example where the caller wasn’t sure where the noise was coming from.

“Enforcement efforts have increased thanks to [code enforcement officer] Greg Morris and, based on his recent reports, we’ve noticed a lot of violations were written for noise,” Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said.

But in reviewing village code, she added, it turns out the highest fine Greenport can impose for a noise violation is $250.

Village attorney Joseph Prokop said the same is true of operating without a certificate of occupancy, which also carries a $250 fine.

Ms. Phillips said other sections of the code will increase the fines based on the number of violations cited. She said those other sections were updated over the years, and the provision for escalating fines were added.

Ms. Phillips said that continuing to charge only $250 for a noise violation means businesses will say “go ahead and do it because its only costing us $250.”

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said he discussed this subject — and the idea of an escalating scale of fines — with other village officials two weeks ago.

If the village were to charge, for example, $500 for a second offense, $1,000 for a third and $5,000 for a fourth, it would be more expensive for repeat offenders, he said.

“When you start getting hit with a $5,000 fine, it’s big difference … It’s not just the course of doing business,” Mr. Hubbard said.

Mr. Hubbard said code enforcement issued five or six noise violations over Labor Day weekend.

“Everybody in town says it’s just the one place. It’s not. Everybody is doing music, everyone is getting louder and people are not shutting their doors,” the mayor said.

He said the village has talked about things like hiring another code enforcement officer, refreshing the noise code or getting noise meters, but also said the village can discuss those issues in the off season in preparation for next year’s budget.

“But it gets very expensive having someone working every weekend night for 12 weeks, along with their daytime work,” Mr. Hubbard said.

Trustee Peter Clarke, a former president of the Greenport Business Improvement District, said the village should partner with the BID “to try and get everybody on the same page about how we can be welcoming and still allow people to have a good time, as they always have in Greenport.”

The village, he said, “needs to strike a happy medium about how we want our village to be perceived and from there, the codes and violations can fall into place.”

Mr. Clarke said that on the Fourth of July, “it’s kind of OK if maybe everybody goes a little wild until midnight. But you don’t want that four nights a week for 12 weeks at every establishment until 2 a.m. These’s got to be some sort of happy medium.”

“After midnight needs to be peaceful,” Mr. Hubbard said. “People have to sleep.”

If people are at an establishment at 1 a.m. and the music is turned down by 10 decibels, “they are not going to walk out because the music is too quiet,” Mr. Hubbard said. “It doesn’t have to be blaring where you can hear it six blocks away.”

Mr. Clarke added that not all of the noise complaints involve music. There have also been complaints about things like landscaping, leaf blowers, traffic and motorcycles, he said.

Ms. Phillips said local businesses and village residents need to communicate.

“We’re both losers in the end, if we can’t come together and remain the community that we’ve always been,” she said.

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