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Village gets modified stipulation agreement for 123 Sterling

The Greenport Village Board of Trustees received a modification to the 2007 stipulation agreement for the property at 123 Sterling Avenue from owner Paul Pawlowski last week, officials announced Thursday.

The modified site plan will only alter the interior of the property, Mr. Pawlowski of Mattituck said, and aims to construct a parking lot on the parcel. The modified stipulation agreement will go before the Planning Board Nov. 7.

Greenport Board of Trustees held a public hearing on the wetlands permit application for the property Thursday, which allows for improvements to the marina area of the project. The permit will improve water flow into Stirling Basin, Mr. Pawlowski said.

The previous owners completed roughly 300 feet of bulkhead, or barrier wall, that divides the water from the property, but left roughly 132 feet incomplete. The application would replace that bulkhead with one that’s roughly 18 inches taller than the existing bulkhead. The new bulkhead would also meet New York State Department of Environmental Conservation standards, he said.

“This application is based on finishing a job that was not done,” Mr. Pawlowski said.

123 Sterling LLC, a group previously headed by former property owner Richard Raskin, received site plan approval for the project in 2007 as a result of the stipulation in an Article 78 lawsuit filed by neighbors in the Stirling Basin Neighborhood Association. The stipulation also involved the Village Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

Mr. Pawlowski and Kenny Balloto of Westhampton purchased the 1.72-acre property in spring 2019. They obtained a building permit for the property earlier this year. But the decade-old condominium application for the property continues to raise concerns from members of the association and community members filled the Third Street Fire Station to express their frustrations about the wetlands permit near the marina and the property.

Jaap Hilbrand, a Sterling Street resident, said that regardless of the height of the bulkhead in the wetlands permit, water will enter the area.

“Water finds its own way; it’s stronger than any one of us here. So, I don’t care whether its 20 feet bulkhead, it will find its way to go there,” Mr. Hilbrand said.

The Village has plans to dredge Stirling Basin but is awaiting permission from the DEC, officials said.

A resident read a letter from Pat Mundus, who was unable to attend the meeting. In the letter, she said that being bound to the 2007 stipulation agreement does not allow for any further review. Additional review is necessary, since the property flooded after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, she said.

Frank Macken of Sterling Street said the association is concerned that a traffic study was not completed for the stipulation. He also cited a 2007 meeting between the Board of Trustees and the ZBA, which determined the project would have no negative impact on the surrounding area.

“We’re just curious how that could possibly be,” he said. “45,000 square feet … how could that not impact our area? Our block has, like, 18 houses in it, so that would [create] twice the number of units.”

Since Hurricane Sandy, Mr. Macken said, the road has narrowed and the area may have changed since the 2007 agreement. He requested a meeting between association members, Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Pawlowski to review the documentation in the 2007 stipulation.

Ellen Schnepel, co-founder and chair of the association, said she was grateful to hear the modified site plan will be reviewed by the Planning Board because she’s heard multiple stories about what will happen with the property.

She said she submitted a letter to village officials in late September outlining the history of the project and the stipulation agreement but never received a response.

“We want you to respond to us and not dismiss us in every meeting or in any capacity when we write you of our concerns,” she said. “We are dismissed …. and we are not taken seriously.”

Mayor George Hubbard said he was unable to provide an answer at the time she submitted the letter because the property owner was not expanding outside of the stipulation.

“He has a court order, he’s going through the process, he’s doing what he’s allowed to do,” Mr. Hubbard said. “I’m not dismissing you, I was waiting to get more information to see where the project went.”

He added that the Village can “only act on what is submitted to” them and rumors of the future of the property do not have an impact on the Board.

Board trustee Julia Robins noted that even if Mr. Pawlowski told the Association his intentions were different from the stipulation, he cannot act on his own and still needs to receive approval from the village.

“Nobody is trying to hide anything from you,” Ms. Robins said to Ms. Schnepel. “Nothing can happen without the village knowing about it.”

Resident Stephen Weiss suggested the village halt construction on the site until the details of the modification are approved.

The mayor said the village does not have the legal authority to halt the project and has spoken with New York Conference of Mayors for recommendations on how to legally pursue the 12-year-old project.

Mr. Pawlowski reminded the public that the site’s current foundation follows what’s in the 2007 stipulation.

“When it comes to use of this property and the potential modifications, that hasn’t changed since the first day we met — not once,” he said. “The building might have changed, but the uses and the modifications have not once changed. Not one thing is being done on this property that is not permitted, nor will it ever be done.”

He said if a change is made on the property, it will be permitted and there will be ample opportunity for residents to express their concerns.

The Village Board closed the wetland permit public hearing and plan to discuss the application at the Nov. 21 work session.

Correction: The board did not approve the wetland permit, but closed the public hearing. 

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