Greenport Village eyes changes to zoning code

The Village of Greenport is considering sweeping changes to its zoning codes aimed at better protecting small businesses and maritime industries on the waterfront and imposing new restrictions on noisy nightlife.

The proposed zoning code overhaul is also intended to “ensure a vibrant, mixed-use commercial district with a focus on encouraging businesses that provide year-round employment, services and goods to Village residents,” according to a draft of the proposed changes.

Since last December, the village has been enforcing a development moratorium in its commercial districts — which Mayor Kevin Stuessi has said the Village Board will lift in early fall.

Among the proposed changes would be the creation of an entertainment permit for village businesses that want to showcase live entertainment. Those businesses would be required to apply for a two-year permit that can be renewed if the establishment hasn’t received citations during the previous two years.

The initial entertainment permits would be issued for free, as long as applications are submitted by Dec. 31, 2023, but would cost $250 for each two-year renewal, according to trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who heads up the village’s code subcommittee.

“It’s not intended to be punitive,” trustee Patrick Brennan said at last week’s Village Board meeting, “so we want to ease into it and get everyone to apply.”

The proposed rezoning plan would ban nightclubs from operating in the village, which are defined as operations “primarily engaged in providing entertainment” that employ cover charges, disc jockeys, sound systems and hours of operation that extend beyond the normal dinner hours. Noise ordinances for residential districts would also be revamped under the code updates.

Officials are also considering rezoning parts of what is now the Waterfront Commercial district. Retail shops along Front and Main streets with no access to the water would be rezoned from Waterfront Commercial to Retail Commercial.

Under the proposed changes, the Waterfront Commercial District would be focused on attracting and retaining water-dependent businesses, including fish and shellfish processing plants, retail or wholesale seafood purveyors, yacht clubs, marinas, maritime museums, fishing stations, boat docking and launching facilities, charter services, boat fuel sales and storage and “businesses principally engaged in the marine industry.” The district would also allow for municipal parks, government facilities and fraternal lodges.

The third public hearing on the proposed code changes is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, at the Third Street firehouse. A PDF of the code changes, called “Chapter 150” with the proposed amendments in blue, is available on the homepage of the village website at

Another proposed change would require certain new businesses to create a specified number of parking spaces, relative to their size or business use. Bars, restaurants and tasting rooms, for example, would need to carve out two spaces for every three customers based on the establishment’s rated capacity, plus one space per employee. Retail stores, gyms, art galleries and banks would require one space per 300 square feet, or one space per employee, whichever is greater. Existing businesses would not be required to create more parking provided no “substantial expansion” is undertaken.

New businesses subject to the parking requirements would have three options, Ms. Phillips said in an interview after the meeting: Work with the planning board to identify potential on-site parking; seek a variance from the Village Zoning Board; or use the payment in lieu of parking program, in which new business owners pay the village instead of creating parking on the property themselves. The cost would be $25,000 per space for businesses requiring 10 or fewer parking spaces, and $50,000 apiece for businesses needing more than that. The money raised would go into a fund dedicated solely to construction, acquisition or maintenance of public roads, sidewalks and parking facilities in the Commercial Retail zone.

During the public hearing portion of the board meeting, resident Bridget Elkin said she had been under the impression that the zoning changes would follow the completion of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

Mr. Stuessi replied that the timing was changed earlier this year on the recommendation of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, which suggested the village “bifurcate the [development] moratorium from the LWRP and focus on the code changes,” though he added that work on the LWRP has continued all summer.

“The county’s concern was the potential amount of time that the village might be under moratorium if we waited for the full adoption of the LWRP, because of the [lengthy review] process with the state.”

Ms. Elkin said she was grateful for all the hard work by the subcommittees, and believes the proposed zoning changes are “well-intentioned,” but sought to slow down the process until more of the community weighs in.

“I’ve been here now nine years, and I’ve seen how we will have three public hearings to … [make] one of these changes … and really give people time to make their voice heard,” she said.

Referring to last month’s so-called “red letter” about short term rental restrictions, Ms. Elkin said that “we sent out a letter about the rental code to everyone in town. Why not send out a letter about this to everyone in town — that we’re changing 50% of the zoning law?”

Greenport’s Business Improvement District officials have also expressed alarm at the pace and scope of the proposed changes at previous subcommittee meetings.

Ms. Phillips said the meetings have been advertised on the village’s website, and that “I do believe any property owner who is getting a code change has received a letter, so the people who are majorly affected have been made aware.”

She said that the board did the best it could to advertise discussions of the proposed changes.

“With some people it’s a constant ‘I didn’t know, I didn’t know,’ but I’ll be honest with you — we did, very much, a lot of communicating,” Ms. Phillips said.

“There was a communication committee that tried to get the word out … so sometimes it’s the responsibility of the residents to take an interest and appear at the board meeting. We have the videos. You have the opportunity to comment to any one of us,” she added.

The veteran trustee was referring to live broadcasts of the Village Board’s monthly meetings and work sessions on the village website, which also archives past meetings for later review.