Vote delayed on Greenport condos after resident questions lack of restrictions on affordable units, saying it’s ‘ripe for abuse’

An approval of the 123 Sterling Avenue project in Greenport was delayed last Thursday night after a village resident voiced concern that the project’s price-controlled units lacked restrictions that could prevent resale abuse. This prompted Village Board members to table a vote on covenants and restrictions for the site. 

Under the proposed covenants and restrictions, five residential units in the three-story building would sell for $175,000 each. The other 12 condo units would be sold at market rate. 

Potential buyers of the fixed-price units must prove they have either lived or worked full-time in Greenport for at least two consecutive years prior to the application for purchase under the proposal. The units must be the buyers’ primary residence and, although they may be resold at market rates, any sale within two years of closing would be penalized with a “flip tax.” 

At last Thursday’s meeting, Greenport Village resident and Planning Board member Patricia Hammes said the proposed stipulations for potential buyers were not strict enough. 

“Under the proposed criteria, every person in this room — frankly, every person in the area of Greenport — is eligible to buy those units at $175,000, regardless of whether they already own a home, they have significant assets and wealth, they’re already in the top 1% of the income bracket of the United States,” she said. “That can’t be what was intended when these were set aside as affordable units. This approach is ripe for abuse.” 

She said the five price-controlled units should be targeted to first-time homebuyers and the process of choosing buyers should be conducted in “an equitable and transparent manner, preferably through some kind of lottery system based on individuals that meet pre-established criteria.” 

David Gilmartin, an attorney representing the 123 Sterling Ave property, responded that the units were never meant to be affordable housing. 

“It was never intended to be a, quote, unquote, affordable housing project,” he said. “It was a resident-restricted, price-restricted project.” 

He pointed out that the property is governed by a court-ordered stipulation agreed to by the Village of Greenport, its municipal boards, a previous owner of the property and the neighborhood association. The developer has not been able to successfully change any of the stipulations, he said. 

“So here we are, at the end of this process, and we have followed the stipulation of settlement to the letter. I also want to remind the board that this is a privately funded development, no government money involved,” he said, adding that the price agreed to was fair when the stipulation was signed more than a dozen years ago. 

The only change that has been made is that parking for condo owners was taken off Sterling Avenue and placed on site, he said. 

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips moved to table the resolution, seconded by Trustee Julia Robins. 

“We need to have a discussion on this,” Ms. Robins said. 

Trustee Peter Clarke, who also voted to table the resolution, added that it’s the board’s “responsibility to require at least a tighter income check rather than just a residency check.” 

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. and deputy mayor Jack Martilotta voted against tabling the resolution, which will be discussed at an October work session.