County planning commission approves Greenport development moratorium for two more months

The Suffolk County Planning Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve Greenport’s development moratorium, with some caveats, for at least another two months.

Citing the December 2022 start of what village officials have called a “pause” in development in Greenport’s commercial districts, county officials approved the village’s proposed local law on the advice of the commission’s vice chair, Michael Kaufman, who said that he hoped two more months would “just sort of end this.”

“Their waterfront business district is very small,” he said, “and you can easily destabilize something like that.”

“The Village leaders clearly see a problem on the horizon from their perspective – they live there,” Mr. Kaufman continued. “And they think the maritime orientation is wobbling, and you’ve got to give credence to that. They want to have a mix of a working port, local stores, seasonal use and wintertime use also.”

Mr. Kaufman went on to say that “something’s going on over there. You can see changes coming, maybe not directly, but there are economic forces in play. I think that we probably should give them two months more to finish up the moratorium.”

“Giving them two months would be a total of six months,” Mr. Kaufman said. “They can come back if they want to, or they can supermajority us if they want to,” he said, referring to the village’s ability to overrule county directives with a supermajority vote.

Earlier in the meeting, Greenport Mayor Kevin Stuessi — while acknowledging he’d been in office less than 27 hours — had sought an additional five months for the moratorium.

“We are committed to getting these updates done over the course of this summer,” he said. Mr. Stuessi was joined at the meeting by the entire village board and outgoing Mayor George Hubbard Jr.  

Prior to the vote, SCPC chief planner Andrew Freleng reviewed the history of the village’s application to date, weighing deficiencies in the village’s application against evidence collected by SCPC staff that supported the village’s case for a moratorium.

He said that the village’s application was still missing data supporting the need for a moratorium, but that SCPC staff had had gathered data that does.

Mr. Freleng said that the SCPC staff had determined that Greenport saw a 7.2% growth in housing over ten years, and a 17.5% growth in population compared 7.4% growth in adjacent communities or Southold town overall.

Mr. Freleng said the SCPC staff had recommended approval, but suggested that it be limited to three months; that more evidence supporting the need for the moratorium should be edited into the moratorium law language, and that the moratorium be “detached” from efforts to complete an update of the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.

Mr. Kaufman noted that the village’s application “doesn’t fit our usual criteria, unfortunately — which creates the problem, because direct data is missing,” Mr. Kaufman said. “On the other hand, from 2013 to 2022, you’ve had 11 restaurants coming in that’ve changed retail.”

Both Mr. Freleng and Mr. Kaufman told village officials that the moratorium should be detached from the village’s update to its LWRP.

In response to questions from the commissioners, Village Attorney Joseph Prokop said that seven development applications in the restricted commercial zones had been made in 2023, and that of two notices of claim from developers, one is now a lawsuit.