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Proposed changes to 123 Sterling project given OK from neighborhood association

Plans for the 123 Sterling Avenue project appear to be changing again, but this time with support from the neighborhood association.

Developer Paul Pawlowski is seeking to modify a 2007 legal stipulation, which allows for a 45,000-square-foot, mixed-use building featuring commercial space, 12 market rate and five affordable condominiums to be built. Construction on the property is already underway.

Mr. Pawlowski presented an overview of the proposal at a village board meeting Monday, noting that his goal is to improve upon the approval without making major changes to what has already been approved.

Changes to the site plan would see parking spaces relocated to an approved indoor storage area that Mr. Pawlowski said would allow for additional green space and along both Sterling Avenue and Ludlam Place.

“Every perimeter piece would have a bit more green space,” Mr. Pawlowski said. He also proposed to add sidewalks and curbing along Sterling Avenue to allow for easier access to the public waterfront.

The 12 indoor parking spots proposed would be located in a roughly 4,800 square foot area of the building originally intended for indoor storage. Mr. Pawlowski said the area above the parking garage would be reserved for residential storage only and has also proposed to not construct a storage outbuilding included in the approved site plan.

The parking reconfiguration would still allow for 60 spaces required by code, he said.

In addition to changes to the site plan, Mr. Pawlowski is seeking to amend the affordable housing criteria included in the stipulation. Under his proposal, the village housing authority would have the ability to audit applications to ensure they meet requirements and also increase the flip tax from 25% to 40%. The flip tax period would also change from two to seven years, Mr. Pawlowski said, to deter people from flipping units.

He proposed increasing the affordable sale price from $175,000 to $200,000 per unit and allocating the $25,000 difference to the village housing authority.

In a letter to village officials, Ellen Schnepel, who chairs the Sterling Basin Neighborhood Association, said the organization supports the changes. Addressing the board during Monday’s meeting, Ms. Schnepel said they have been working together with the owners on the improvements, striking a different tone than at an August public hearing on a different set of modifications Mr. Pawlowski had been proposing.

Mr. Pawlowski had been seeking permission to modify the agreement in order to relocate the five affordable units to a separate building on the property, which drew strong opposition from neighbors and prompted the developer to withdraw the application.

Ms. Schnepel said last Monday that she believes the latest set of changes would improve the streetscape and help the village attain its affordable housing goals. “[The SBNA] hopes the changes to the affordable housing at 123 Sterling Avenue will serve as a model for the village as it prepares a future affordable housing plan,” she said.

Village officials didn’t provide any immediate feedback on changes to the parking plan, but raised concerns over affordability.

“I’m not in favor of going from $175,000 to $200,000,” said Mayor George Hubbard Jr. “$25,000 for a young couple could be a make or break deal on them being to afford one of them.”

Trustee Julia Robins said she’d like to ensure the units are kept affordable in perpetuity. She said she’s seen several homes intended to be kept affordable be resold at higher rates. “Those properties are all returning at market rate and are totally unaffordable,” Ms. Robins said.

Neighbor Frank Macken agreed and said the affordable units should become a “permanent resource” for the village. He also stated his opposition to the indoor parking garage, arguing that it’s out of character for the area. “You can find it in Brooklyn on the luxury waterfront, but I don’t think it has a place in Greenport,” Mr. Macken said.

Formal public hearings must be held before the board of trustees, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Historic Preservation Commission in order to modify the 2007 stipulation.

In the meantime, Mr. Pawlowski said he’d continue to work with the SBNA on ways to improve the building’s appearance and vowed to provide more regular updates to neighbors and village officials.

“It’s a good thing that the temperature has lowered on this project. It’s been very controversial,” Mr. Macken remarked during Monday’s meeting. “It’s a good thing everyone’s talking to each other.”