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Port Jefferson master plan faces disagreements on key elements

Virginia Capon, the head of the Port Jefferson

Virginia Capon, the head of the Port Jefferson Comprehensive Plan Committee, is pictured at the Port Jefferson train station. (April 3, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Piece by painstaking piece, Port Jefferson's future is being laid out.

A committee of residents has drafted recommendations for a new master plan to take the village's development through 2030, and the village board has hired consultants to hammer out different parts of the plan.

The project, launched in 2009 to update a strategy that has been untouched since 1965, is moving into its final phases -- but there are some disagreements over key elements.

"Everybody's looking to the plan right now to find out what the vision looks like," said Mayor Margot Garant. She said she hopes to schedule public hearings on a new master plan in early fall, after an environmental review.

Former trustee Virginia Capon, chairwoman of the village's Comprehensive Plan Committee, said the "principal reason to update the master plan was to control growth . . . to have a growth process that was commensurate with the small-town maritime character of our village."

Port Jefferson, which lies on the southern edge of its namesake harbor, is known in part for its bustling downtown, where pedestrians can stroll among restaurants and boutiques. But its popularity has created a major parking issue that the master plan must tackle, according to village and planning officials.

"The village is a successful destination point, and the inconvenience is going to be an increasing problem," said planner Lee Koppelman, who has consulted on parts of the plan.

Koppelman had suggested parking garages, which the committee deemed unsightly. Capon said the CPC has also clashed with consultants and village leaders on recommendations on building heights and open space preservation, among other items. "We have reached an impasse on those issues," Capon said.

"We respect the work" of the CPC, Mayor Garant said. "They are the visionaries, but we have to make this work with the existing code."

Another major issue for the village is redeveloping Upper Port, the stretch of Main Street around the train station.

Town councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld said parts of that heavily commercial corridor need help. "Many of those businesses are . . . doing quite well, but some near the station are blighted," he said, adding that he's working on "an incentive plan" to bring business to the area.

Michael Schwarting of the architecture firm Campani & Schwarting, which consulted on portions of the master plan, said the first move will probably be to improve Main Street. "The issue about changes on Main Street is something they want to move ahead on as quickly as possible," he said.

Other suggestions include more housing in Upper Port, an idea that troubles some residents.

CPC member Phil Griffith said they worry that a large number of units could exacerbate traffic troubles. "We have concerns about the density," he said.

Still, Capon said as a resident of Upper Port, she would welcome some kind of revitalization. "I, for one, am tired of having hypodermic needles thrown over my fence," she said.

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