Pictured Above: Strong’s Yacht Center, with the hill where the new boat storage buildings behind the existing buildings, as seen from across Mattituck Inlet.

The Southold Town Planning Board unanimously accepted an independent Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that points out numerous flaws in a plan to build two large yacht storage buildings at Strong’s Yacht Center in Mattituck on Monday evening.

Board members said they will now forward the FEIS to the Suffolk County Planning Commission for comment before they issue their findings statement and final decision on the site plan, a process that could take “a couple of months.”

Southold Planning Board members said Monday that while the soonest they could issue a Findings Statement was 10 days after they accepted the FEIS, the Planning Commission will not meet again until June 5, after the Southold Planning Board’s next scheduled meeting on June 3, necessitating the extended time frame.

The Yacht Center has proposed to excavate about 124,000 cubic yards of sand from a hillside overlooking Mattituck Inlet at Strong’s Yacht Center on West Mill Road in order to build two roughly 50,000-square-feet heated yacht storage buildings.

It’s a proposal that has galvanized the North Fork community, which turned out in force at two public hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prepared by Strong’s consultants, P.W. Grosser Consulting, Inc. last spring, with many arguing that the project would have a major impact on the environment, and many others arguing that the Strong family’s expanding marina business has been an economic engine driving the North Fork.

The Southold Town Planning Board is the Lead Agency coordinating review of the project according to the rules of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, known as SEQRA.

After receiving a massive amount of public comment, Southold Town hired the consulting firm of Hardesty & Hanover of Melville to prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement responding to the comments, which was received by the town Planning Department May 3. Here are the FEIS documents.

Read Our Coverage of the May 15, 2023 hearing:

Read Our Coverage of the June 5, 2023 hearing:

While SEQRA allows applicants to modify their projects in response to public comment, Hardesty & Hanover said in the FEIS that “the applicant has not modified any aspects of the proposed action,” and the FEIS focused instead on evaluating the comments, finding many of them to be substantive.

The FEIS points out numerous deficiencies in the DEIS, finding “flaws in the methodology” of environmental, noise and construction impact analysis, incomplete descriptions of flora and fauna on and adjacent to the site, a lack of “sufficient detail on jobs estimated to be created,” inconsistencies in the project construction schedule and flaws in the way construction trips have been estimated, as well as no analysis of a phased construction plan in which one of the two buildings is constructed first.

The report also noted that the DEIS “does not adequately address the risk of, or the contingency plans for structure or hillside collapse during construction. To demonstrate that all impacts have been mitigated to the greatest extent practicable, this information would be necessary.”

The consultants also stated that the applicant has not provided confirmation from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that “a mining permit is not required for the proposed excavation and removal of approximately 124,921 cubic yards of material,” and that a Tidal Wetland Permit for the project obtained from the DEC in January of 2020 “was premature and can only be granted after the SEQRA review of the project has been concluded.”

Charles Cuddy, the attorney for Strong’s Yacht Center, attempted to address the Planning Board before they accepted the FEIS, calling out “deficiency in the whole process,” and adding that the applicant “never had a chance to comment on the public comments.”

Board members told him it was an inappropriate time for him to speak, but said they’d been advised by counsel that they had followed the procedure correctly, before voting to accept the document.

Jeff Strong, President of Strong’s Marine, said Wednesday that it was a bit too early for him to comment on the FEIS.

Save Mattituck Inlet, a community group that has been urging members of the public to speak up about the project, said their group “encourages everyone to read the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Strongs Marine Yacht Warehouse project.”

“They will see for themselves that their nearly 1,800 thoughtful comments are being taken seriously and can make a difference,” said Anne Sherwood Pundyk, Co-Chair of the Save Mattituck Inlet Steering Committee. “Since we came together in 2020 as fellow neighbors and members of the Mattituck community, SMI has sought to encourage others to get involved in the oversight of development in and around Mattituck Inlet. We have worked to support the Southold Town Planning Department’s review of this project.”

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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 editor@eastendbeacon.com

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