The Greenport Village Board voted Thursday to send a letter to County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) asking that the legislature allow a “landing fee” for cars entering Greenport from the North Ferry the next time the ferry company goes before the legislature to seek a fare increase.
The landing fee, described in the letter as a “nominal surcharge to the ferry rate,” would raise money to pay for repairs to the roads adjacent to the ferry landing, officials said.
“The village parking and road infrastructure bursts at the seams much of the year now to support this county hub,” the letter, signed by Mayor George Hubbard Jr. on behalf of the board, states.
“Yet the village’s small tax base of $1 million per year makes it challenging for us to raise revenue to bond for a parking structure and updated road plan that would ease these challenges to our residents and visitors.”
The proposed fee would be reserved in a special fund earmarked for “improvements to this regional transportation hub,” the letter states.
The village board vote was 4-1 to send the letter, with Trustee Julia Robins casting the sole no vote.
“I see it as a tax,” she said. “The ferry is not just there to get tourists to Shelter Island and back.”
Ms. Robins said the ferry provides a service that village residents benefit from as well.
“I think the most pressing issue is the traffic flow and I don’t think this is going to solve that,” she said.
Trustee Doug Roberts proposed sending the letter to Mr. Krupski a week earlier at the board’s work session, although the specific language of the letter wasn’t set at that time.
“It’s clear that North Ferry is a cause of traffic,” he said at the work session.
Village officials say the roads nearest to the ferry landing have greater traffic and wear and tear.
Mr. Roberts said the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation (HPOC), which owns the ferry, “will not help unless they are forced to.”
This is why he suggested a letter to the county, because North Ferry’s rates must be approved by the county legislature, and the additional surcharge, which officials have proposed be $1 per car getting off the ferry into Greenport, would also need county legislature approval.
The county approved rate hikes for North Ferry in 2011 and again in 2014.
“It’s not the first time it’s come up and it probably won’t be the last,” said Stella Lagudis, general manager for HPOC said after Thursday’s meeting.
“But I don’t know how you can apply that type of a surcharge to just one particular business. We’re not the only business in the village.”
She said there are “other mechanisms” to get to that result but that she hasn’t discussed them with the village yet.
Mr. Krupski said the county is researching the legality of the fee.
Village Attorney Joe Prokop has been researching the legality of such a fee for more than a year with state officials and has yet to come up with clear answer. He said he may have the answer next week.