Guest Spot: Greenport Village’s future is on the table

In regards to a proposed building moratorium on commercial property in the village of Greenport, and a comment put forth by the mayor of Greenport in opposition to the moratorium — “We don’t want to discourage investors from coming into the village” — I say, really? 

Whose town is this? Who gets to decide our destiny? Progress is unavoidable and change inevitable, but the village should take control. That’s their job. Planning is everything. It’s not too late to put the brakes on and plan properly, with everyone’s interests in mind, but time is of the essence. A moratorium is a no-brainer.

Those who have been here the longest have seen the most change. Some like it, most don’t, and some are leaving because of it. To those who think “It’s too late, it’s over, it’s a done deal, you can’t stop progress,” take heed, there is so much more to lose.

For those who appreciate the look, feel and vibe of the village, time is of the essence. There is no doubt that the Village of Greenport is at a critical juncture brought on by real estate values, land use issues and development pressure. Developers consistently come to town with dollar signs in their eyes, seeing financial opportunities in growth and expansion. The entire waterfront is in play.

There is an application pending to put a three-story hotel in the center of town, on the corner of Front and Main streets. This would forever change the look and feel of the village. Where does it say that developers have the right to maximize density for profit, with variances no less? 

Affordable housing is a major issue and a problem for us all. But throwing the word “affordable” into a project should not be some kind of magic password to gain approval. The so-called affordable housing project at the corner of Main Street and Route 48 includes 15,000 square feet of supposed medical space below the apartments. They are asking the village for access to the village sewage system. 

First of all, according to the developer, the anticipated rent will be $1,500 a month for a 350-400-square-foot unit. This is like a motel room with a small kitchen. It’s not affordable and certainly not decent housing. The market is flooded with medical space right now. It’s no small matter that this project will be adjacent to the worst traffic intersection on the North Fork.

Until we determine what our long-term sewage system needs are within our village we shouldn’t be giving any of our limited resources away. What will we need for our future waterfront? And who will define it? The developers? Access to our sewage system resource needs to be included in the moratorium.

Planning is key and it should be consistent with the needs and wishes of the community being served. That includes the business community, residents and property owners. We are all stakeholders, vested in the outcome of all future decisions.

I’m a firm believer in property rights, but every property owner in the village has property rights and the right to have a say in the village’s future. When I hear zoning boards, planning boards, developers and others say “but the property is zoned for” this and that, as developers apply for all sorts of permissions, exceptions and variances, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. The zoning and planning boards have much discretion either to grant special exceptions or not. Many factors must be considered.

There are those who think that all this is out of our hands, a done deal, big money always wins, throw in the towel. No! There is an election coming up in Greenport in March, which will be the key to the future of the village. We will need strong leadership to get us through the pending storms of development pressure. 

The residents of Greenport should have and do have the deciding voice. This is no time for apathy. Engage, speak up and be heard. Time is of the essence. The future of Greenport is on the table.

Mr. Henry is a resident of Greenport.