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Southold Town and Greenport Village boards explore new ways to protect the village’s waterfront

Greenport’s new mayor and Village Board members held their first joint meeting with the Southold Town Board Tuesday to discuss a number of issues, including preservation of Greenport’s commercial waterfront.

Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she’d recently learned that Community Preservation Fund money, normally earmarked for protecting agricultural land, could also be used to purchase development rights along the village waterfront to preserve its historic character.

That working waterfront is one of Greenport’s most prized and threatened assets. Village officials and volunteers have been working diligently on numerous subcommittees in recent months to update village codes and craft a final revision of Greenport’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. Mayor Kevin Stuessi has said the board aims to submit the updated LWRP to the state by summer’s end.

Ms. Phillips said she learned of the availability of CPF funds to protect a commercial waterfront while working with Long Island Farm Bureau President Karen Rivera and Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski. 

On Tuesday, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell confirmed that was possible. 

“It was an intriguing conversation,” Ms. Phillips said. Still, she noted, the idea is only in its infancy and cautioned that it might not turn out to be the best solution. “There are a lot of catches to it,” she said in an interview after the meeting. “You have to be careful because when you sell development rights, you have to set what exactly is the [future allowable] usage on a property,” as permitted uses can’t be changed once they’re established. 

Town Board member Sarah Nappa shared Ms. Phillips’ sense of caution. “Our biggest challenge with agriculture … is what’s going to be allowed on those preserved spaces,” she said. “But the idea of preserving the working parts of the waterfront is going to take some serious work to really outline what we want there … That way, we’re not preventing things from happening. We’re promoting what we want.”

Ms. Phillips cautioned that town and village codes would need to be coordinated and uniform so that, as fellow village Trustee Patrick Brennan added, “those updated plans make sense for all of us.”