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Northport Village trustees postpone vote on rooftop dining ban

Northport Village trustees held a public hearing on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, to discuss amending the Village Code on outdoor dining. Residents voiced their opinions on whether rooftop dining should or should not be permitted. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman)

Northport trustees agreed Tuesday night to delay voting on a proposal for a village-wide ban on rooftop outdoor dining at restaurants and said they will seek additional community input on the issue.

Village trustee Ian Milligan said the board chose to postpone a final decision because some opponents of the proposal who spoke at Tuesday night’s public hearing were not village residents. He said trustees need to get a better sense of how many residents support and oppose the ban.

Village officials said the trustees will likely revisit the proposal at their March 21 meeting.

“I was aware that this was widely favored,” Milligan said. “But there are still a lot of people who are against it that did not show up.”

Opposition at the hearing was led by Paul and Marie Gallowitsch, owners of Skipper’s Pub, who are suing the village and its zoning board of appeals for denying their application to add a seasonal rooftop bar to the restaurant they’ve owned for nearly 40 years.

“The support was overwhelming,” Paul Gallowitsch said of opponents of the ban at the hearing. “It was a lot of people at the meeting and it went very well.”

Milligan noted that people who spoke on behalf of Skipper’s and against the rooftop ban were a mix village residents and people who live outside the village.

“I’m in favor of listening to the public,” Milligan said. “That means taking into account what people say and want. Obviously our obligation is to the village residents.”

The Gallowitsch’s initial effort to open up a rooftop bar was controversial in the village, with many residents supportive but plenty of others raising concerns about how such a change could create noise issues and worsen already limited parking in the village.

Gallowitsch said he hopes the mayor and board members listen to those people who spoke out Tuesday on Skipper’s behalf and that officials reconsider the ban.

Rooftop dining has been a boon for other villages, including Bayville and Port Jefferson, said Eric Alexander, a Northport resident and director of Vision Long Island, a village-based nonprofit focused on downtown revitalization across Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“A downtown business district needs every tool in the toolbox to succeed in this climate,” Alexander said.

After the hearing, Alexander described the proposed ban as “foolish,” noting that village officials had other means of regulating rooftop dining they could pursue instead of forbidding it.

Village Attorney Stuart Besen has said that the change in village code was only an effort to clarify something that officials believe has already been established.

“There’s no way you can come to the conclusion that it [village code] would include rooftop dining,” he said in an interview last week.


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