Village residents pack meeting in favor of pausing development; Moratorium expected by year’s end

Hearing from residents who packed the Third Street Firehouse Monday night demanding a moratorium on development in the Waterfront Commercial and Commercial Retail zones, the Greenport Village Board agreed to move forward on establishing a moratorium before the end of the year.

Most speakers made it clear they aren’t opposed to developers but want a plan in place before anyone moves forward with projects, some of which are already in the pipeline and others that could be forthcoming without a moratorium.

The subject of the moratorium has been a discussion by the Village Board and residents for months, but came to fruition Monday after listening to many residents pushing for a pause in development to enable time for a plan to be put in place.

To facilitate that end quickly, the Planning Board might be invited to the general discussion meeting at 7 p.m. Friday.

Trustee Peter Clarke characterized the need to move quickly as a response to a “growing sense of urgency” expressed by the speakers.

The public will have another opportunity to comment on what is expected to be a draft of legislation from village attorney Joseph Prokop and an alternative proposal from trustee Julia Robins.

Neither draft was publicly available Monday night, and Mr. Prokop was unable to attend Monday night’s meeting. But Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said he spoke by phone to Mr. Prokop Monday about the draft and the attorney pointed out there were problems that had to be rectified to make the resolution legal.

Concerns about how quickly Mr. Prokop could make necessary changes resulted in an approximately 25-minute discussion about when the next meeting could be held, finally settling on Friday night.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips told her colleagues since this is a priority for the Village Board, there is no reason Mr. Prokop can’t review and make changes to the draft in time to make a document public for the Friday meeting.

“It’s our job no mater how much work it takes,” Ms. Phillips said about the effort that needs to be made now. The need to plan is not just for now, but for the next 10 to 20 years and for our children,” she said.

Ms. Robins initially wanted to allow more time with a meeting delayed until Dec. 12, but Ms. Phillips appealed to her to “take the win” in terms of getting her alternative proposal on the table and vote for the Dec. 2 date.

Following Friday night’s meeting, a draft could be revised and then scheduled for a public hearing in later December. Following the public hearing, the board could adopt the new legislation and send it to the Secretary of State to be incorporated in village laws.

Resident Kevin Stuessi started the discussion at Monday night’s meeting presenting the Village Board with a petition signed by about 200 residents and business operators asking for a pause in future development in the waterfront and retail areas of the village.

The petition calls for:

• Organizing a Waterfront Advisory Committee to update the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.

• Redrafting a proposed local law affecting parking regulations to accommodate public comments and create a village parking plan.

• Drafting a new zoning code for the waterfront and commercial areas that incorporates knowledge gained from the Waterfront Advisory Committee to update the LWRP and “adopt it as a Village Comprehensive Plan to govern future planning and development.”

“There’s a very wide spectrum that wants to hit pause,” Mr. Stuessi said. “It’s about smart development,” he said, drawing widespread applause.

Trustee Jack Martilotta said he feared six months might not be sufficient to do the work necessary to guide the future. But Ms. Robins response was while haste is necessary, there’s nothing magical about a six-month moratorium that can’t be extended if more time is needed to complete the work.

A number of speakers, including Planning Board member Patricia Hammes, offered to assist with work that needs to be done during a moratorium.