Community Action Southold Town’s plans to move into the former Greenport United Methodist Church building on Main Street have been met with opposition from some neighbors, who compare it to a commercial use in a residential neighborhood.
The proposal was the subject of a Greenport Village Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Tuesday.
CAST plans to move out of its current location on Front Street and into the former church, which was converted to a single-family residence by the property owner James Olinkiewicz in 2017.
It had been a church since 1890. CAST has been running a nonprofit, philanthropic organization in Greenport since 1965.
“Over the years, I’ve seen first hand how important CAST is to the Village of Greenport and the Town of Southold,” said Cathy Demeroto, CAST’s executive director.
She said the recent COVID-19 pandemic highlighted CAST’s value to Greenport. She said they are not expanding their uses for the new building, they just need the extra space because they have outgrown the current building.
CAST has a food pantry, educational programs, tutoring, a sharing room and other services, she said.
But attorney Harvey Arnoff, who is representing about 13 neighbors opposed to the move, said that when Mr. Olinkiewicz got planning board approval to change the building’s use from church to single-family residence, that approval came with a covenant limiting the use of the property to a single-family residence.
Thus, CAST would not be a permitted use in the building, he said.
“Given then community support we get and the outpouring of support during the pandemic, we are absolutely surprised by the intensity of this opposition,” said Marc Sokol, the president of CAST’s board of directors. “During my tenure here, we’ve never received any complaints from neighbors.”
He said “it has been obvious for several years that CAST has grown out of its current space.”
In order to move into the former church, CAST needs several zoning variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and it will also require approval from the village’s Historic Preservation Committee, since it is located in an Historic District.
Patrick Brennan, one of the neighbors who opposes CAST’s move, said there’s a “troubling narrative” being pushed through the community that “you’re either for CAST or you’re not. I can be for CAST and against this proposal.”
He said locating CAST at the church is like “trying to squeeze an intensive commercial-type activity into an historic residential district.”
ZBA chairman John Saladino said they received about 80 emails on the subject from residents.
The meeting was adjourned to the ZBA’s next meeting on Aug. 18.