A Mattituck builder has withdrawn his proposal for a new development at the gateway to Mattituck, after more than two hours of public testimony Sept. 22, mostly from people opposed to the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