Greenport Village to Hold Public Hearing on Retail District Expansion

Greenport administrators could expand the village‘s Commercial Retail district instead of establishing a new waterfront area, after a discussion in a work session last Thursday. The village plans to schedule a public hearing after Thursday’s meeting, where more details will be released.

At their August 4 meeting, council members discussed moving forward with legislation to divide the waterfront areas into two separate districts. These would distinguish waterfront commercial properties, which have access to the water, from others that only have a view of the water. The proposed new waterfront access zone would not include hotels, motels and restaurants as permitted uses.

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. argued last Thursday that moving “view-only” properties into the existing retail zone would be easier than creating an entirely new zoning district specifically for them. “Keep the waterfront separate, take the other [properties] that’s inside Front Street and everything else, make it retail across the street, and we don’t need a new water view area or whatever,” Mr. Hubbard said.

“We are not creating a new [zone,] we just bring the other side of the street into the zoning map that we already have,” he added. It would be simpler than creating a third zone, he said, and the council can clarify permitted uses.

Most administrators favored pursuing separate legislation for two purposes: a redistricting measure and another to change permitted uses in specific districts.

“I think it’s really a lot easier to get consensus when we break these big ideas down into smaller pieces,” Deputy Mayor Jack Martilotta said. “If we’re just going to change it from Waterfront Commercial to Commercial Retail, I think it’s a relatively simple lift. I think we can get everyone behind. I think that’s something we can accomplish in a reasonable amount of time, which would then free us up to have a side discussion about what uses we want in that area.

Mr Hubbard said he wanted board consensus before the legislation goes to a public hearing so they “can present a united front”.

“The fact that we are proposing to go ahead with a change in zoning classification, before a change in use, does not bother me. I think doing them sequentially, rather than all at once, is a step in the right direction,” administrator Peter Clarke said.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, although she said she wanted to prioritize going forward, expressed concern about tackling permitted uses separately and said she did not believe that more hotels or motels would be suitable for downtown Greenport. She has previously stressed the importance of protecting a functioning waterfront and shifting development to prioritize year-round residents.

“I just feel like – hotels, motels – we’re moving away from creating a business district for year-round residents and not just the tourist season,” she said. “Restaurants are good. What worries me is that we have properties that could potentially be better used for housing, making a community a year round community and not one based on continuous tourist activity.

Aside from the Greenporter, she added, the hospitality industry generally doesn’t do well in the winter.

“Maybe we just want to step back a bit after being crammed in all summer,” she said. “I just think it’s time to rethink who we want to be and what we want to look like. And I’m concerned that hotels, motels are downtown. Waterfront, definitely, it But I think we really need to rethink the size of a hotel, a motel, the number of rooms, I think we need to discuss that.

Administrator Julia Robins pointed out that this is where the discussion about a moratorium began. The board of directors did not discuss setting up one during last Thursday’s working session.

“Six months ago we started to worry that this village seems to be overflowing with people who want to come here and start more businesses which are going to put more strain on the infrastructure, that we don’t have the services to deal with that. We’re in the midst of a housing crisis, we don’t have people left who can afford to live here. So there are multiple levels of things going on,” she said.

At the working session, Village Solicitor Joseph Prokop also introduced new parking bills with a rolling fee structure and legislation that would facilitate more accessory dwelling units on the basis of transcript of a special meeting of directors on August 4. The suggested pieces of legislation would interact with each other when drafting the code.

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