Village sends moratorium plan to the county for review; New waterfront advisory committee will meet in January

The administrative moratorium affecting the waterfront commercial, retail commercial and general commercial zones of Greenport Village remains in place following a public hearing Thursday night.

The latest draft of the plan for a moratorium will be sent to the Suffolk County Planning Commission that has 45 days to render an opinion on it. In many cases, the opinion is simply a review subject to local decisions. But the County planners can ask for changes or render advice if its members choose to do so.

Following word from the county, a Jan. 26 Greenport Village Board public hearing has been scheduled where plans could change again.

The latest draft with comments from the Greenport Village Planning Board was completed on Dec. 21. It does provide for exemptions from a moratorium and Sofia Antoniadis, who is planning a pilates and yoga studio in the Village, has requested to be exempt. She told the board she will be using an existing property, but would need to make some changes to make space viable. She asked for clarity about how to qualify for an exemption.

There are certain projects — generally those already underway — that can go forward and there is a provision for hardship  exemptions, but it hasn’t yet been fully determined how to qualify, Mayor George Hubbard said.

Two representatives of Erik Warner’s Eagle Point Hotel Partners argued against a moratorium, saying it would force businesses needing to move projects forward to be burdened with long, expensive delays.

Eagle Point Hotel Partners is proposing to use the site of the former Sweet Indulgences candy store for a 22-room inn.

Attorney David Gilmartin Jr. said there’s no way a six-month moratorium would achieve its goals, predicting projects could be delayed for five or more years.

“There’s no threat to the water district,” Mr. Gilmartin said. 

The moratorium on most projects would be stopped, while owners would have no moratorium on real estate property taxes, insurance costs and mortgage payments they would still incur. They would be unable to sell the properties because buyers wouldn’t step up when they had no idea what limits to development might be imposed on their eventual use.

A moratorium would hurt those trying to make properties productive, Mr. Gilmartin said.

Mark Boyle, speaking on behalf of Mr. Warner, said the Village Board, in imposing a six-month moratorium that could be extended, would be passing a law without merit.

The impact on the village economy would be great because of the stagnation the moratorium would cause, he said.

If the inn project is allowed to go forward without interruption, he predicted its guests would be an engine that would drive business in the village, visiting restaurants, stores and services rendered by many others.

Business Improvement District President Richard Vandenburgh, who operates Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, applauded the village board for its willingness to seek a better approach to planning. But he warned a moratorium could undermine Greenport’s strength.

Mr. Vandenburgh, who is one of two announced candidates for village mayor, warned a full moratorium would result in lawsuits being brought against the board.

You can get to the goal everyone seeks without a full moratorium, he said.

He suggested an alternative approach: Pause projects that are troublesome and determine why the updated Local Waterfront Revitalization Program that started in 2010 has yet to be completed. It was revised but never approved by New York State, leaving a plan from 1996 in place. The Board should then seek advice from planning experts, Mr. Vandenburgh said.

Kevin Stuessi, the man who carried a petition signed by more than 200 residents and merchants throughout the village requesting a moratorium, accused the earlier speakers of trying to use “scare tactics” to try to stop the moratorium. None of the speakers lives in the village, he said. Mr. Vandenburgh indicated when he announced his run for mayor that he was going to be renting an apartment in the Village.

“It’s preposterous to say nothing is going to be done” in the six months of a moratorium. He asked the speakers to “work with us” and offered to take them to Sag Harbor that recently ended a moratorium. Sag Harbor is thriving and there was no adverse effect to property values, Mr. Stuessi said.

Planning Board member Tricia Hammes appealed to everyone to “try to work together,” saying, “We need time here.” The Planning Board has reviewed drafts created by Village Attorney Joe Prokop and changes suggested have been incorporated into the latest draft.

A letter from residents Lynn Decker and Carole Ann Myavec read into the record by Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo said those speaking against the moratorium were failing to take into consideration the concerns of those who live in the village. 

The village board established a Waterfront Advisory and Planning Committee that will begin meeting in January. Members are: Mayor Hubbard and Trustees Mary Bess Phillips and Julia Robins; Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman John Saladino,or member Dena Zemsky as an alternative; Planning Board Chairman Patrick Brennan, or member Daniel Creedon as an alternate; Historic Preservation Commission Chairwoman Jane Ratsey Williams,or member Roselle Borelli; and full-time residents and property owners Steven Clark and Jeanne Cooper.

The  Board also provided for an additional six voting members: Eric Elkin, Christopher Hamilton, Mr. Stuessi, William Swiskey, Stacey Tesseyman and Randy Wade.

Meetings will be open to the public and Mr. Hubbard encouraged  more people to come forward and offer their views.