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Village Planning Notes: Hotel discussion continues, hearing set on new pilates studio

As the village Planning Board meeting got underway last Monday, Nov. 28, the chairman spoke briefly to address criticisms the five-member body has faced in recent weeks.

“I just want to quickly explain what the Planning Board is charged with doing,” said Patrick Brennan, reiterating that the board’s primary responsibility is to review conditional uses and site plans while considering factors including public health and safety, traffic, natural resources and comfort of residents in impacted neighborhoods.

“In carrying out these responsibilities to the best of our abilities, it’s not constructive for current or future applicants to use pejorative language in characterizing the work of this board,” Mr. Brennan said. “It’s not constructive for anyone to cast dispersion on this board, the village administration or its consultants, nor will it influence the work of this board.”

While Mr. Brennan didn’t address any particular application, his remarks come one month after a representative for a proposed 22-room hotel accused the board of being “adversarial” in their review of the project.

Erik Warner’s Eagle Point Hotel Partners, owner of two Greenport hotels — Sound View and Harborfront Inn — has proposed converting the former Sweet Indulgences on Main Street into a three-story inn.

Sweet Indulgences closed last year after nearly 30 years in business.

A pre-submission conference that has spanned several months continued at Monday’s meeting as Planning Board members discussed parking, traffic and other concerns with attorney David Gilmartin Jr., who is representing the applicant.

Board members raised questions about the validity of parking and traffic studies prepared by an engineering consultant hired by the applicant despite assurances from Mr. Gilmartin that the studies are both “objective” and “exhaustive.”

He said Monday that the study did not explicitly consider the parking lot at Greenport High School in its review. “[But] it is our understanding that the school is available to use as a parking space … it is an available option for us,” he said, citing that it has “historically” been used by businesses in the village for overflow parking.

Board member Daniel Creedon pointed out that it was used once by Claudio’s with a contract in place — something the applicants have not yet pursued with school officials.

Member Tricia Hammes also wondered whether new and ongoing developments — including a mixed-use project that would include affordable housing at the corner of county Route 48, state Route 25 and Main Street in Greenport — among others were factored since they’d likely impact overall traffic in the area.

According to the plans, five parking spaces would be provided on site and the applicant is seeking to use payment in lieu of taxes for the other 20 required stalls. There would also be two stalls for guests to load and unload. 

The consultant noted, in a description of a traffic and parking analysis, that they believe there’s “enough space within a reasonable walking distance of the proposed project to accommodate the parking demand.”

“[In the study,] the general conclusion is that there’s adequate capacity in the village for parking and what I’m struggling with is that does not comport with my own experience as a resident and business operator in the village,” Mr. Brennan said.

He also believes aspects of the report are purely subjective, including suggestions that traffic impacts would be minimal because the inn would encourage its guests to use public transportation, take a shuttle that the business may implement or explore the village on foot.

“While I think all those things are good and valid, it’s very difficult for me to figure out how we can bind the applicant to those things, because those are operational policies,” Mr. Brennan said. “We can’t approve this project based on what the current owner-applicant intends to do … The approval has to hold up over the lifetime of the property.”

The discussion is expected to continue at the next Planning Board meeting on Dec. 14, at which the board has asked the traffic engineers that prepared the reports to appear to answer further questions.

In other village planning news, the board on Monday:

• Approved a request from Greenport Harbor Brewing Company to install two directional signs guiding people toward the Carpenter Street brewery on existing poles.

• Approved a request by Alpina to add four additional seats in front of the restaurant. The applicant agreed to remove four seats from the interior of the restaurant to not impact the total occupancy calculation.

• Held a public hearing on and ultimately approved a resolution to change the use of the former Popsicle & Finn boutique to a different retail space, Salt & Sea, on Front Street.

• Scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 5, 2023 on a new yoga and reformer pilates studio proposed at 308 Front St., which had been a parapsychology library since 2005.