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Port Jefferson Village readies draft master plan

The Port Jefferson Village Hall is shown in

The Port Jefferson Village Hall is shown in this undated photo. Credit: Jasmin Frankel

Port Jefferson officials are ready to roll out a draft master plan updating a blueprint that has stood nearly since the village was founded in 1963.

The 162-page comprehensive plan offers outlines for tackling problems such as parking, traffic, the possible loss of tax revenue from a Long Island Power Authority plant closure, and the need to upgrade the village's Upper Port neighborhood.

Some of the village's 8,000 residents, including members of a committee commissioned to help draft the document, already have expressed reservations about some of its recommendations.

A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 24 at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101 E. Broadway.

Mayor Margot J. Garant said the master plan includes recommended zoning code changes that would help the village attract new businesses -- and permit expansions of existing ones -- by allowing taller commercial structures in some sections of the community.

"The current code, the way it's drafted, is draconian and needs to be updated," Garant said. "The whole way people shop has changed. . . . We don't have a lot of space. Port Jefferson is basically in a dome or valley. We can't build out."

In particular, the plan lays out a strategy for reinvigorating Upper Port, or Uptown, a working-class strip of dry goods stores, restaurants, bars and barber shops. Upper Port, which includes the Long Island Rail Road's Port Jefferson stop, has struggled, while the village's tourist-oriented waterfront has thrived.

Some Upper Port shop owners agree that the area needs a boost. Albert Lortie, manager of the Tara Inn, a sports bar and restaurant, said many of his neighbors have struggled to stay afloat during the national economic downturn.

"I look out the front window now, and I see three or four empty storefronts," he said.

Some residents, such as former village trustee Virginia Capon, question the master plan's recipe for revitalization.

Capon, chairwoman of the village's Comprehensive Plan Committee, said the document's suggestions to set aside space for a parking garage and increase height restrictions to allow four-story buildings would harm the village's aesthetic character.

"It's very hard to find a small, historic downtown on Long Island with more than three stories," Capon said. "There's a real question about whether you need to go to height in order to encourage development."

Another committee member, Barbara Sabatino, owner of Port Jeff Army Navy in Upper Port, said the plan's recommendations might bring new life to languishing businesses.

"What they hope to do is attract developers who would buy these underutilized buildings . . . and put up new ones," she said.

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