Guest Spot: Greenport Village needs smarter planning methods

The North Fork Experience. It’s not a four-letter word but for some it is a four-word problem. I understand that, for longstanding and perhaps generational Greenport residents, the growing influx of visitors can be difficult. But when the resistance comes from relative newbies to our community, who are now the most transparent “Not In My Back Yard” voices, it’s just plain hypocrisy ad nauseam. 

The challenges we all face with the appeal and exposure that the North Fork has experienced in the past several years can be a source of consternation and frustration. I do not make excuses for those who may arrive with disrespectful or aggressive attitudes and a lack of consideration or manners. However, it is irrational and unreasonable to assert that “a gate” should be erected preventing further migration of newcomers or development because “I already have my own.” 

Growth, prosperity and further development are inevitable results in any community that has much to offer. The key to managing access to such a beautiful kingdom and the inevitable march of progress is smart planning, realistic expectations and transparency in managing such growth. That takes commitment, focus and courage in the face of NIMBY and narrow-minded opinions. 

I don’t believe that our municipal leaders are bigoted, but I do believe they are encouraged by those who have hidden agendas rooted in a form of intolerance. It is a dangerous and divisive influence that can create poor laws and regulations with veiled consequences and unintended impacts. The only transparent safeguard against such behavior and attitudes is embracing a more comprehensive, global and holistic vision of what our true priorities and goals should be. 

Having recently attended a Greenport Village public hearing on the proposed fee in lieu of parking law, it was overtly apparent from the very words used at that hearing, by the mayor and others in support of the new code, that it is designed more to curb further development and continued growth within our village than it is to solve a parking problem. It is nothing more than a development culling tax. 

Further, with virtually no definable plan as to how this proposed law will actually create parking or alleviate the “parking problem,” one resident suggested we should not question its impact or aim and simply trust it’s the right thing to do even with no plan. Really? 

I suggest there are many more precise ways to alleviate the inconvenience and frustration of those who believe they cannot easily park their cars in front of their home or store of choice. I agree that every resident should have that convenience and can be protected in a way which generates compliance through enforcement. Specific designated residential parking areas, tow zones, street markings, clarity of signage, time limited parking and meter kiosks with resident exemptions and revenue generation for code enforcement are all targeted methods to address parking issues. The reality is that many of our parking lot spaces remain empty or underutilized because there is no enforcement or clarity of what is and is not permitted on our streets. 

Equally absurd is the suggestion that allowing another hotel in the village which provides accommodations for overnight guests somehow eliminates the fact that those guests will stroll our village, patronize the restaurants, bars, shops and businesses of Greenport and instead flood our streets with more vehicles with no benefit. That’s not rational and suggests an agenda with a different aim altogether. I suggest that we create our own Village Hotel Tax (as has been done in other municipalities) and pass that cost onto those who wish to enjoy the Greenport experience, while raising revenue to help the village with code enforcement and protection of the rights of residents’ parking. 

This law will also harm the local mom-and-pop family business more than restrain development. Who do you think will be able to pay such a development tax more easily? The local entrepreneur or the larger, deeper-pocketed corporate big-box store? I submit this type of ill-conceived law will complete the feared Hampton 2.0 transformation of our village faster than we realize. 

The lack of understanding that the North Fork and Greenport experience is based on a thriving local business community with hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and businesses — all of which provide improved tax revenues and are directly tied to the increased value of our homes, wages and the ability to support the working waterfront and village operations on a year-round basis, is the real delusional thinking and danger of a permitted NIMBY attitude. 

Planning requires effort and courage from all involved and can be difficult, especially in the face of narrow-minded attitudes. We all need to join in advocating for an intelligent plan for the future of our village and our North Fork. This local law is nothing more than a hidden attempt to protect the selfish and inequitable NIMBY voice and falls far short of measuring up to what I believe is our capability to create a better plan for all. 

Mr. Vandenburgh is president of the Greenport Business Improvement District.