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Greenport mayor on helipad idea: ‘I did not expect the outcry would be as loud’

There will be plenty more opportunity for the public to weigh in on whether the Village of Greenport should allow a local businessman to build a helipad on his property.

Mayor George Hubbard said he brought the topic up at last week’s village board work session just to “get the information out there” to give the trustees and the public a chance to “absorb it.”

Hubbard said last week that Walter Gezari, owner of STIDD Sytems, had approached him about the idea of building a helipad on his Carpenter Street property. It would allow him to expand his business in his current location and result in the hiring of 10 more employees, as the mayor relayed his conversation with Gezari.

The village has gotten a lot of feedback since Hubbard floated the idea last week. He said today he’s had about 50 emails and dozens of phone calls from people upset with the village for even considering it.

“I didn’t think the outcry would be as loud,” Hubbard said.

“I’d say about 90 percent of them were not even village residents,” Hubbard said in an interview today. But he’s gotten negative feedback from some village residents too, including one lawyer who said there would be a lawsuit should the village approve the helipad.

“I would listen more to people living on Bay Avenue than someone living in Aquebogue,” Hubbard said. “It would be one helicopter. It’s for one business, not for bringing in the rich and famous.”

The mayor clearly did not expect the uproar that resulted from bringing the idea up last week.

“There will be plenty of time and opportunity for the public to weigh in on this,” he said.

Gezari spoke to Hubbard because he wanted to get a sense of whether the village would dismiss the idea out of hand before he spent the money on engineers drawing up plans, the mayor said.

Hubbard said the process that would have to be followed seems to have gotten muddled as far as the public’s perception is concerned.

Former trustee Bill Swiskey said at last night’s village board meeting that if the trustees approve the helipad, “the other boards are basically out of the loop. The zoning board can’t stop it. The planning board cant’ stop it. You are the power here,” Swiskey told the board. He said it should hold public hearings before taking any action.

But the business owner would have to obtain site plan approval from the planning board in order to move forward, Hubbard said. The plan could not go anywhere even if the trustees liked it, unless the planning board approves it, he said. If variances are necessary, Gezari would have to go to the ZBA to obtain them, the mayor noted.

Before the Federal Aviation Administration would grant its approval, the village board would have to sign off on it, Hubbard said. So, even if the planning board approves the site plan, if the village board refused to sign off on it, the FAA would not approve it, he said.

“That’s why he came to talk to me first,” Hubbard said. “Before spending a lot of money on engineered plans, he wanted to know if I considered this possible.”

The village board’s consent to the FAA permit, if given, would not relieve the property owner’s obligation to get site plan approval from the planning board, Hubbard said.

The mayor said the soonest the village board might take up the topic for discussion would be at next month’s work session.

He said he doesn’t know whether Gezari will move ahead with a formal application to the planning board.

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Denise Civiletti

Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.