CAST, unable to challenge ‘unjustified opposition,’ abandons plan to move into former church

Community Action Southold Town has abandoned its pursuit of purchasing the former Greenport United Methodist Church.

CAST said in a statement Wednesday that “despite its strong desire to continue its operations in the Village of Greenport as it has for 55 years,” its board of directors has determined it can longer pursue purchasing the building at 621 Main St. in Greenport.

CAST’s plan to relocate from its current Front Street location was met by opposition from neighbors of the former church, who argued the new use would be commercial in a residential neighborhood. The former church was converted to a single-family residence by the property owner James Olinkiewicz in 2017.

“As a small, nonprofit organization, CAST does not have the resources to challenge the immediate neighborhood’s litigious, vocal and completely unjustified opposition expressed to the Village Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, which made it clear that CAST was unwelcome there,” the CAST statement said.

CAST is continuing to search for a new location and most likely will not be in Greenport Village, the statement said.

“We are disappointed that our vision of a North Fork Community Center will not be realized at that location and most likely not anywhere within the Village of Greenport,” the statement said. “CAST is continuing to search for a location where we and our clients are welcome and where we can have a permanent home to serve the community.”

CAST has a food pantry, educational programs, tutoring, a sharing room and other services, executive director Cathy Demeroto previously said. CAST has been on the frontlines serving meals to community members during an unprecedented spike in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney Harvey Arnoff, who is representing about 13 neighbors opposed to the move, previously 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.

In order to move into the former church, CAST needed several zoning variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and also required approval from the village’s Historic Preservation Committee, since it is located in an Historic District. 

A ZBA hearing on the proposal was set to resume Aug. 18.