Mattituck Developer Nixes Proposal for Shops & Apartments

The property in question stands at the gateway to Mattituck.
The property in question stands at the gateway to Mattituck.

A Mattituck builder has withdrawn his proposal for a new development at the gateway to Mattituck, after more than two hours of public testimony Sept. 22, mostly from people opposed to the project.

Builder Paul Pawlowski said Saturday morning that he will change his plans and build something that complies with zoning at the site.

After many in Mattituck said earlier this year that they didn’t like Mr. Pawlowski’s first plan, a new affordable housing complex at the gateway to the hamlet, few seemed to like his latest proposal to build shops with affordable apartments above them.

On Sept. 22, the Southold Town Board weighed whether to rezone 3.8 acres of the 20.8 acre property on the south side of Route 25 just before Tony’s Asian Fusion at the entrance to Mattituck’s business district.

The property is currently zoned for two-acre residential properties, but would have needed to be rezoned to general business before Mr. Pawlowski’s proposal to build five commercial buildings with 12 upstairs apartments could be heard by the town’s planning board.

Mr. Pawlowski had offered to donate the remaining 17 acres of the property to the town for preserved open space.

The project drew criticism from most in attendence at the Southold Town Board’s Sept. 22 public hearing on the zoning change.

North Fork Environmental Council president Bill Toedter said he found Mr. Pawlowski’s willingness to be active in community discussions about the project “refreshing,” but said that he believes Southold should require high-tech septic systems for all new projects.

“You know of the costs, particularly with regard to our water,” he said. “It’s time for developers like Mr. Pawlowski and others to be good neighbors.”

Town Supervisor Scott Russell pointed out that the Suffolk County Health Department is not yet approving many high-tech septic systems.

“It’s been very frustrating,” he said.

Julie Amper of Mattituck said she doubted the project would help provide good jobs or local people looking for housing.

“Will college graduates really stick around to work in a cheese factory or fish store?” she asked, adding that, because Mr. Pawlowski hadn’t offered to rent the apartments through an official affordable housing program, “they could be rented by affluent Manhattanites looking for a pied-à-terre on the North Fork.”

Dave DeRitter, who moved to Mattituck from Sayville after he saw the development encroaching there, said he believed the project would hurt the environment.

Denise Geis, whose family has lived on Sigsbee Road in Mattituck for four generations, said the project would bring more traffic.

Joanne Lechner, who moved to Mattituck because “it’s just so different from Nassau County,” said she doesn’t understand why anyone would build more stores in Mattituck when many are sitting empty already.

“Why is everything dumped in Mattituck?” she asked. “Have you determined you’re going to sacrifice one town for the rest?”

Joy Ellinghaus, whose family has had a summer home on Sigsbee Road since 1968, said big corporations have already degraded Mattituck.

“Enough is enough,” she said. “We need to protect this area. If he wanted commercial acreage, he should have bought commercial acreage.”

John Carter of Mattituck asked why the hearing was being held on the eve of Yom Kippur, when many people are with their families.

Mary Eisenstein of the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association said that, after creating several working groups to examine the project and listening to Mr. Pawlowski speak at a well-attended public forum this summer, the civic association had conducted a poll of its membership.

They sent out 115 questionnaires to their membership, and 111 responded, an extraordinarily high response rate.

Of those, 102 said they didn’t approve of the zone change and nine said they did.

“We ask the town board to deny permanently this request for a zone change,” she said.

Mr. Pawlowski, who lives in Mattituck and said he knows many people who need housing. He added that he believed many working people who have trouble finding houses would have come to the hearing if it had been held at an evening meeting instead of at 4:30 in the afternoon.

He added that the project, which would total 14,000 square feet, would be about the same size as the Hudson City bank complex in Greenport.

He added that he’d be willing to consider a septic system upgrade, and plans to hold a farmers market in the complex. He also plans to make it visually appealing. He said he’d be willing to provide covenants that the apartments be affordable in perpetuity.

“This will be a nice setting and a welcoming look to our town,” he said. “Whatever it is that goes in these stores, they will create jobs.”

Fred Andrews, a former member of the town’s Housing Advisory Commission, said he liked the proposal.

“Affordable housing is very hard to come by,” he said “I don’t think that is a decisive factor but I do think it should be taken into consideration.”

Mr. Andrews added that he heard no public opposition when the housing commission put together The Cottages project near Factory Avenue in Mattituck.

“The Cottages provided good affordable housing. They did not cause taxes to go up. They did not overwhelm the school system,” he added. “I don’t know why folks in mattituck think affordable housing is a bad thing.”

Bll Grimler, who lives in Mattituck, said he believes it makes sense to rezone the property, which is right at the entrance to Mattituck’s business district.

“It seems consistent with what’s going on there. I like what I hear,” he said. “There are a lot of strong statements like ‘nobody wants this. Nobody likes it.’ That’s not so. The apartments, I think they are very well needed. It’s not 100 percent no. We happen to think it’s a good proposal.”

Aquaculture Plan a Go

The Southold Town Board also voted unanimously to approve a controversial zoning code change that would make a place for aquaculture in town.

Southold’s town code is currently silent on the matter of land-based aquaculture, a business model that is gaining traction worldwide as wild fish supplies dwindle and the costs of fishing rise.

The code change, which defines land-based aquaculture, permits aquaculture in the light industrial, light industrial office and agricultural conservation districts.

It also includes zoning restrictions that would prohibit aquaculture on parcels of less than seven acres, and would require buildings on a property used for agriculture to be set back 100 feet from the road and 200 feet from contiguous parcels of land.

“I think that what we have is a situation where Southold’s agriculture industry is evolving,” said Mr. Russell. “Some people expressed reservations. We’ve accomodated them in the code, as far as site plan and setback issues. People need to start asking if we support local business, where do we think local business is going to come from if not from agriculture.

 

 

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, 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 editor@eastendbeacon.com

7 thoughts on “Mattituck Developer Nixes Proposal for Shops & Apartments

  • September 26, 2015 at 9:51 pm
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    I’m against suburban sprawl but Pawlowski’s plan has many attractive features, especially if it can really be restricted to low-income families or individuals, with no loopholes (e.g. no possibility of resale to the rich, and forced sale when incomes surpass a threshold – I suspect rental would be a better way to achieve this.
    The point is we should encourage more urban housing, and discourage sprawl. And dedicating 17 acres as open space is going to cost Pawlowski at least $1M.

    Reply
    • September 28, 2015 at 1:23 am
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      From what I understand, and from what was brought up at the meeting, because of an ongoing, unrelated lawsuit involving the Town’s affordable housing program, Mr. Pawlowski’s plan cannot be involved in the Town’s affordable housing program. It would also be illegal to discriminate against parties and state that those apartments will only be retained by Southold Town residents, particularly if they are not recipients of the affordable housing program. This is a disingenuous assertion to garner support. Affordable housing should never have been brought into this project in exchange for commercial zoning. It’s a red herring, as is the preservation aspect. Preservation of 17 acres is moot at the point of developing 3 acres with 5 commercial buildings. The 3 acres assaults the community so badly, that the donation of 17 acres is meaningless. Another red herring. That 20 acre tract is residential for a reason: it backs up to residential houses and a horse farm. Just because its egress is on the Main Rd. doesn’t mean it can handle that amount of build up. It can’t. That area is already overdeveloped and we Mattituck residents are paying the price. We are only asking that it stay zoned as it is. A zoning change is kind of the biggest loophole you can get!

      Reply
      • September 28, 2015 at 7:26 am
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        Hi, Joy, It is my understanding that the lawsuit you are referencing is a federal civil rights lawsuit that Southold is not a party to, but Mr. Pawloski had been advised by his attorney to take the potential region-wide repercussions of that lawsuit into consideration in his decision to not go through the the town’s affordable housing program.

        Reply
        • September 28, 2015 at 9:55 am
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          Thanks Beth, Yes, I believe that is correct, though I don’t know whether or not the Town is cited or involved in that or any other lawsuit regarding their housing program, just that it was made clear at the meeting that Mr Pawlowski would NOT be participating in the affordable housing program of Southold Town. To Mr. Adams’ point, the choices of Mattituck residents have unfortunately been largely ignored, which is why you see McDonalds, 7-11, and CVS hovering around the periphery of that tract of land. This is all on top of Mattituck Plaza and Magic Fountain (which is a hugely successful ice-cream shop at the top of Sigsbee Rd.) The traffic at that junction is abysmal. To add to it with more commercial building is a frightening prospect. If the periphery hadn’t been overdeveloped, then I might agree, his plan wouldn’t be unthinkable. But prior boards have already degraded that area too much. To add congestion, pollution, traffic, and more deterioration to our precious waters, we simply have to be smarter about the decisions we make for the future.

          Reply
      • September 28, 2015 at 7:39 am
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        My point was a fairly general one: sometimes urban development of part of a tract (eg close to existing downtown/commercial areas) combined with balancing green space is better than more suburban sprawl. But of course all depends on the details, which in this case may favor the existing zoning.
        But I’m an englishman and quite like their model with dense downtown surrounded by “greenbelt” and “countryside” (concepts that doesn’t seem to exist in the US). It makes towns livllier and the rural areas quieter.
        However, while “the people have spoken”, I do not accept that means they are necessarily right!
        I love Mattituck and respect its residents’ choices, which have largely been good ones. Good luck with your endeavors!

        Reply
  • September 27, 2015 at 5:12 pm
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    The people have spoken. It was not what we wanted.

    Reply

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