Residents of Mattituck learned this past month that plans to preserve a wooded corner of New Suffolk Avenue had not gone through, and instead the property was sold by former owner Bridgehampton National Bank in December of 2018.
Brinkmann’s Hardware, which already has locations in Sayville, Blue Point, Miller Place and Holbrook, proposed a paint and hardware complex totalling 20,000 square feet at the site in mid-2017.
The proposed project jarred Mattituck to the core — not only would it have been on a dangerous corner near the blind curve at the center of town, but it would be situated on the corner New Suffolk Avenue, a sleepy residential corridor that winds its way down to the quiet hamlet of New Suffolk.
In comparison, the Handy Pantry and Mattituck Laundry building, on the other corner of the intersection, is half the size, at 10,000 square feet.
Residents of Mattituck packed the Mattituck American Legion on the evening of Jan. 28 to air their concerns about the project at a meeting called by the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association.
Brinkmann’s proposal called for a 12,000-square-foot hardware store and an 8,000-square-foot paint warehouse with 80 parking spaces.
Last year, Southold Town and Suffolk County made an offer to buy the property, with plans to turn it into a park maintained by MLCA and the North Fork Environmental Council (NFEC). The NFEC’s office is in the woods just east of the property.
But the land was transferred on Dec. 8, 2018 for $700,000, said MLCA board member John Carter. Mr. Carter said he has heard from Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski that the money for the purchase is still available from the county.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who stood quietly near the back of the room for much of the meeting, said the town will continue to work to buy the property.
“We’re committed to be a partner for as long as it takes,” he said. “The town board is very aware of the concerns. They have the same concerns, and all options to address it are under consideration.”
He did say the owners had submitted a check for $30,000 to the Southold Town Planning Department last week to pay for an economic impact study of the project, which would also require a traffic study and may require coordinated environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
“Our box store legislation requires a comprehensive economic impact analysis,” said Mr. Russell. “It’s a very seperate review from SEQRA.”
The project as originally proposed would also require a variance from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals because the building size would exceed what’s allowed on the 1.84 acre site.
MLCA invited retired Mattituck-Cutchogue School Superintendent Dr. Anne Smith to help create committees within the Civic Association to fight the application.
“There are opportunities for the community to have thoughtful input,” she said.
“It is worth a lot to them if can get all their permits. It’s worth a lot less if they don’t get the permits,” said Fred Smith of Mattituck, who urged the community not to give up on pushing for preservation. “Our work in between is to make it less valuable for them to be there.”
“It’s gonna be a battle,” said MLCA board member Jean Schweibish, who suggested getting civic associations across the North Fork involved. “We have people who will come out en masse. “
“I’m a very hopeful person, but to me this is a pivotal moment on the North Fork,” said Lynn Summers.
“I’m very concerned about the precedent this could open up, with large box stores coming into the entire area,” said Bill Flinter.
Editor’s Note: An early version of this story quoted Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell saying the owners were pursuing other options. Mr. Russell was referring to the owners of Orlowski Hardware on Love Lane, not the Brinkmanns.