The Southold Town Planning Board adjourned votes to Aug. 5 on a denial resolution and a findings statement for the proposed Strong’s Yacht Center yacht storage buildings in Mattituck Monday night in anticipation of receiving a new, scaled-back plan “within two weeks.”

The two proposed buildings, roughly 50,000 square feet each, would have required the removal of about 124,000 cubic yards of sand from a hillside adjacent to a nature preserve overlooking Mattituck Inlet, and environmentalists and neighbors have been harshly critical of the proposal as it worked its way through the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process over the past several years.

Pictured Above: The crowd leaving after the Southold Planning Board adjourned its decision on the Strong’s Yacht Storage proposal Monday evening. Mr. Strong (in blue) and his attorney Charles Cuddy (in a suit) are in the center foreground.

A crowd including members of Save Mattituck Inlet, Save the Sound, the North Fork Environmental Council and local civic groups packed the Southold Town Hall meeting room Monday night to hear the Planning Board’s decision.

“We understand that we said we would make a decision on the application tonight,” said Planning Board Chairperson Jim Rich as he asked the board to “adjourn a resolution to deny the application on condition we receive a revised application within two weeks.”

“At that time, the applicant had made no indication that they would revise the plan,” he added of the original plan to vote. “All applicants have the right to submit revised plans any time prior to a final decision on an application… Any revised plans will be scrutinized thoroughly.”

A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the original project prepared by Southold Town’s consultants, released in June, found numerous environmental impacts, and the Suffolk County Planning Commission recommended June 20 that the Southold Planning Board deny the application.

Strong’s Marine President Jeff Strong said after the adjournment that his company plans to submit a revised plan for one yacht storage building within the two-week timeframe.

Mr. Strong said the Suffolk County Planning Commission “had highly recommended we engage in conversation with the Southold Town Planning Board, lessening significantly the amount of sand that gets trucked off that property.”

“We have been working since that time with our engineers to be able to come up with a scaled-back project that would be less square footage of buildings and and a significant amount less sand to be trucked off, and we’ll get that submitted within the time frame that the Planning Board thankfully allowed us to do,” he said.

Mr. Strong added that he was pleased that the Planning Commission had amended its denial to say the storage was a “water-dependent” use and not a “water related use,” since 60-foot yachts could not be transported to the site on winding local roads with low-hanging utility wires, and would need to be floated there on the inlet.

“All we want to do is have meaningful dialogue, and try to do what people are asking us to do,” he added. “We fully understand the environmental concerns. Our family currently owns five properties on Mattituck Inlet, including a house that our family lives in… Do you think we’re going to do a project that’s going to damage our own house? I don’t think so.”

Before casting its 4-0 votes to adjourn both the denial resolution and the SEQRA findings statement (Planning Board Chair Don Wilcenski recused himself), Mr. Rich said the board had been swayed by a July 2 letter from one of Mr. Strong’s attorneys, David Altman, asking for the adjournment.

Strong’s “is preparing a revised site plan that will substantially reduce the scale of the project, from two buildings to one building,” wrote Mr. Altman in the letter. “Given the foregoing, we ask that the Planning Board adjourn and hold in abeyance its issuance of a Findings Statement as the scope of the project will materially change. Moreover, adjourning the issuance of a Findings Statement gives the Planning Board, the Planning Department and the community the opportunity to consider Strong’s revised plan.”

Mr. Altman added that the Planning Board had “eliminated’ Strong’s and its project team from the preparation of the FEIS, and “must give the applicant the opportunity to modify the project, particularly where the applicant voluntarily plans to substantially reduce the scope.”

“Allowing Strong’s the opportunity to amend its application is common practice and denying it the right to do so is arbitrary and capricious,” he added.

“It’s disappointing that this is legal wrangling at this point,” said Louise Harrison, the Long Island Natural Areas Coordinator for Save the Sound, who was among the crowd at the meeting. “The bottom line is we have to see what these new plans are, and the community needs to stay alert and take a look at them and see what we think.”

“What is the change in scale is really important to know — how much less sand, how many fewer trees, what is going to be the new elevation?” she added. “I think it’s more likely a financially driven decision from the applicant, but we look at environmental implications. We all have to stay alert.”

“How the Planning Board behaves is of great interest to a bunch of attorneys — for Save Mattituck Inlet, Save the Sound, Southold Town and the applicant,” she added. “All of these attorneys are looking at ‘what is the right behavior now?’ Nobody wants to be sued, but for four years, we’ve realized this project has legal implications.'”

Save Mattituck Inlet’s attorneys, Super Law Group, sent a June 17 letter to the Suffolk County Planning Commission asking that it disapprove of the application based on the Commission’s staff report’s basis for denial — the traffic and noise generated by an estimated 4,500 loads of sand being trucked away from the excavation site and the “significant slope disturbance and tree removal” there, and on “significant land alterations and development in an area that is vulnerable to storm surge flooding.”

Mr. Strong, who had told the Suffolk County Planning Commission on June 20 that about half of the property is residentially zoned and could be housing lots, said on July 8 that his plan is to keep that portion of the property undeveloped, but “if we get painted in a box and we submit a revised application that the vast majority of people feel is in the spirit of reasonableness, and that gets denied, then we’ll have a much harder look at different sources of development.”

Other Development Applications

The Southold Planning Board also assumed Lead Agency status and issued a Positive Declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act on a proposed demolition and redevelopment of the Gulf gas station on the Main Road just west of downtown Mattituck, adjacent to Bray Avenue and Old Main Road Monday evening, meaning the project will now undergo an extensive environmental review. Board member Martin Sidor voted against the positive declaration, which passed in a 4-1 vote.

The applicants propose to demolish the existing gas station and its nine fuel pumps, merging the lot with an adjacent lot, and then building a two-story, 5,000-square-foot office building and convenience store, adding 12 fuel pumps and 34 parking stalls, 12 of which will be at the pumps.

The Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association will host a public informational meeting on the proposal at its next meeting Monday, July 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Veteran’s Park community building on Peconic Bay Boulevard.

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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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