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Greenport trustees aim to split waterzone into two districts

The Village of Greenport plans to move forward with legislation to divide waterfront areas into two districts, facilitate accessory dwelling units and address parking concerns after a special meeting on Thursday.

The meeting was scheduled to discuss zoning in the village, after some trustees called for a moratorium on waterfront development until the end of the year to give the village time to revise zoning code. The three suggested pieces of legislation would interact with each other when code is written. A moratorium was not scheduled at Thursday’s meeting.

Waterfront zones would be split into two districts to distinguish between waterfront commercial with access to the water and properties that just have a view of the water. The waterfront access zone would not include hotels, motels and restaurants as permitted uses.

Village attorney Joseph Prokop said the legislation would need to identify properties in those zones. Objecting owners could sign a petition to require a supermajority of the board or express their views at a public hearing, he said.

The village board also reconsidered legislation that could more widely allow accessory dwelling units in the village. Trustee Julia Robins suggested passing a version of the law with less stringent requirements and pointed out that in addressing the affordable housing crisis Greenport has the advantage of a sewer system, which the rest of Southold Town doesn’t have. 

“I think it behooves us to try and hammer out and push the envelope on the accessory dwelling law … expand what we permit here in terms of accessory dwelling units,” she said. “I don’t want to get into the weeds right now about the differentiation between affordable and just accessory dwelling units. I think we should concentrate right now on the creation of housing.” 

Ms. Phillips pointed out that discussing ADUs raises concerns about parking. The village board considered legislation earlier this year that would have set a system for payment in lieu of required parking, and eliminated a grandfathering clause that exempts the use, adaptation or change of use of buildings in retail and waterfront commercial districts built before Jan. 1, 1991, from off-street parking requirements. 

Ms. Robins criticized the proposed legislation as “pay to play,” which Trustee Peter Clarke disagreed with. He pointed out that funds from the clause allowing the Planning Board to charge applicants in lieu of parking could be used to pay for parking and road improvements. 

“A person who has a lot of money in the checkbook is already here, whether you charge them or not,” he said. “Not giving any more assistance to the Planning Board on making decisions about which projects to approve and which to deny, I think would be irresponsible for us and this is a tool we can use to provide them with. They would have an opportunity to waive the requirement but they would also have the opportunity to enforce it.”

Mr. Prokop said he’d bring draft legislation on all three proposals to the trustees at their next work session. 

Ms. Robins said, as she outlined her goals ahead of the discussion, that the village was becoming a “town mainly of restaurants” even before the pandemic. She said she’d like to see more retail or light manufacturing in the village to create more year round jobs in the area. 

“I personally don’t think the restaurant business and industry is a sustainable good job for people,” she said. “It doesn’t give them a long-term career path, it doesn’t provide them with the benefits and the security and things that they need. Couple that with the housing crisis we’re experiencing here on the North Fork, I don’t think that’s a sustainable model for Greenport.” 

Permitted and additional uses in zones need to be updated to better align with the village mission, she added. The trustees should establish a code committee to go over code and bring suggestions to the board.

Ms. Phillips said her biggest concern is the waterfront commercial districts and emphasized the need to “secure our working waterfront.” Besides establishing the two waterfront districts, she said the arts district should be removed from the code. “It’s something we do not use right now. I think that we’d be better served creating the true accessory apartments or creating them to be apartments,” she said. 

There also needs to be clearer definitions in the code, she said. She highlighted the need to address parking in the village.

“My goal is to protect the working waterfront. I think it needs protecting, I think it’s what Greenport is. It may not be the traditional fishing my husband and I are involved in, but it’s still boat building, it’s still working, it’s still the shoreside services that need to be provided for any vessel,” she said. 

Mr. Clarke, who also said the village should change waterfront code, said the trustees need to take another look at accessory apartment code and legitimizing year round rentals above commercial space. He emphasized the need to change permitted uses in several zones and update code definitions, as well as parking laws.

“I believe it is incumbent on us to create a smoothly operating business district, traffic and parking, so that the people who we serve can enjoy the summer season as much as all the visitors who come here,” he said.

Mayor George Hubbard said so long as the trustees are diligent about their goals, he thinks they can complete code changes by the end of the year without a moratorium. He suggested board members schedule one-on-one time with the village attorney and administrator to discuss proposed amendments.