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Should Greenport Village consider implementing a moratorium on new restaurants and bars?

As the number of restaurants and bars in Greenport increases, village officials are considering ways to limit further expansion and better regulate parking. 

At Thursday’s work session, officials discussed a moratorium on new restaurants and bars in the downtown Business District.

Trustee Peter Clarke pitched the idea and said a moratorium could remain in place until the village completes proposed zoning changes and develops a strategy for parking and a long-range comprehensive plan for Greenport. The moratorium would help the village get a better grasp on the pace and nature of change in the community, he said. 

Mr. Clarke added that there aren’t many requirements for opening a restaurant or bar in the incorporated village. “You really just need a building permit if you’re going to make changes, or putting in, maybe, a grease trap if there wasn’t a restaurant there before to accommodate what the sewer system would require,” Mr. Clarke said.

His concern, he said, arose as numerous properties on Main Street changed in recent years from retail to restaurants and bars.

“Before you know it, we could be a Patchogue or a Westhampton Beach or a Montauk — where our community has been taken from us in that we don’t have anywhere for families to go that aren’t interested in eating out or having alcoholic beverages,” he said.

The Village of Patchogue recently considered a moratorium on new restaurant approvals, but no decision has yet been finalized there.

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said parking issues in Greenport have persisted for over 60 years and it’s difficult to find one concrete solution. 

“I don’t think there is a solution for parking,” he said.

Trustee Julia Robins said there are now about 45 restaurants and bars in the downtown Business District, and that eight to 10 more could open locally this year alone.

Since a parking study was conducted in the village in 2009, Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said, parking codes have been enforced. 

Trustee Jack Martilotta said a growing number of liquor license applications has come before the board and that the village has seen “quite a dramatic change” in recent years. He asked village attorney Joseph Prokop how to address that growth. 

Mr. Prokop said an applicant cannot apply for a liquor license if a restaurant/bar use is not permitted under the zoning that applies to the location. Nearly every month, he said, the village receives a liquor license application in which the applicant describes a use that is not permitted by zoning. 

A moratorium must be enacted through the adoption of a local law, Mr. Prokop said, and must be tied to a plan other than the elimination of a particular use. He recommended any moratorium run six to 12 months.

To further limit the conversion of a non-food business into a food business, Mr. Prokop said, village trustees could change the zoning code to a conditional use, asking that restaurants meet more requirements.

Mr. Clarke said parking, business growth and zoning code changes are issues that intersect. A moratorium serves as one approach to addressing these issues. 

He also proposed a parking meter system throughout the village to generate village revenue and encourage residents to park outside the downtown area. The system would not apply to 30-minute parking zones, like the lot outside the IGA, Mr. Clarke said. He also recommended creating a residential parking lot on Adams Street for apartment-dwellers.

“What I know is the status quo is not working for us,” Mr. Clarke said.

Ms. Robins said metered parking would not create additional space but simply shift the usage. Revenue is already generated by code enforcement officers, she said. 

Mr. Hubbard said the village tried using parking meters roughly 10 years ago and it was unsuccessful. The previous system cost $160,000 to install.

Ms. Phillips, who was hesitant about a moratorium but would consider changing the zoning code, suggested the board host a meeting with Zoning Board of Appeals members to hear their perspectives. 

A solution has not been finalized. Village administrator Paul Pallas will look into the cost of a parking meter system, Mr. Hubbard said.