Patchogue residents and business owners Monday night mostly spoke in support of a proposed moratorium on new village restaurants, bars and nightclubs while officials develop badly needed parking areas.
While some speakers at a village board public hearing expressed opposition to the plan, others said the moratorium — which could take effect later this year — is long overdue.
Patchogue officials said the moratorium could last up to 18 months while they work on plans for new parking fields. Village and Suffolk County officials are discussing plans for a $6 million parking garage at the Sixth District Court on West Main Street.
Jim Sarno, owner of Budget Buy and Sell, a Main Street store, said parking shortages have become so bad that some former customers shop in other communities.
"I come to the village, and I can't find a parking spot," Sarno told the board. "We are dying a slow death."
The board did not vote on the moratorium Monday, but all seven members expressed support for the measure. The board plans to forward the proposal to the Suffolk County Planning Commission, which must vote on the plan before village officials can implement the moratorium.
The planning commission's next meeting is Feb. 5 in Riverhead. A tentative agenda does not include discussion of the Patchogue moratorium.
Mayor Paul Pontieri said the moratorium would eventually improve the village's "sustainability" once more parking is created.
"There comes a time when you need to sit back and evaluate all your options, sit back and take a breath and view the situation in its entirety," Pontieri said.
Opponents said a moratorium would hurt existing businesses and discourage potential new development. Some said it would violate owners' rights to develop their properties.
Joel Furman, a landlord and Patchogue Business Improvement District board member who owns two commercial buildings downtown, said a moratorium was a "circling of the wagons that will prevent any new businesses from coming into Patchogue and leave the ones here on the vine to die. ... Don't kick the can down the road. Try to find alternatives. This is a rash action."
Supporters countered that parking shortages will get worse if new eateries open. Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kennedy, who supports the moratorium, said employees of eating and drinking establishments use about 500 parking spaces — more than 20% of the village's 2,200 parking slots — on Friday and Saturday nights.
"A moratorium does not mean, 'no,' it means, 'slow,' " Kennedy said.
Other business owners said their plight was dire and urged officials to implement the moratorium as soon as possible.
"The current path clearly is not working and our businesses are showing signs of stress," said Eric Rifkin, owner of Bobbique restaurant. "Takeout orders are not picked up, and reservations are not kept."