This house on the southeast corner of Laurel Lane would be the first house across the Southold Town line to be included in the Main Road historic district.
This house on the southeast corner of Laurel Lane would be the first house across the Southold Town line to be included in the Main Road historic district.

When historic preservationists in Riverhead gave a list of properties they’d like to see included in a Main Road National Historic District to New York State several months ago, the state asked that 42 Laurel properties along Main Road in Southold Town also be included in the district.

The problem is, the state sent letters a couple weeks ago to all of those property owners asking whether they want to be included in the district, when many in Southold didn’t know the district was going to be created.

“There needs to be more outreach to people that own parcels on the Southold side,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell at a town board work session July 29. “They recently got the letter, and unfortunately it caught some people off guard.”

Mr. Russell plans to set up community meeting to discuss the historic district with those 42 property owners.

Councilman Bill Ruland was also concerned.

“People who talked to me were concerned the whole thing is sort of nefarious,” he said. “All of a sudden, they got a letter from the State of New York. I personally generally support the concept, but I think people should have the unfettered right to opt out.”

Councilman Jim Dinizio agreed.

“I’m a little skeptical. They sent this notice to 42 people saying you have to object or you’re going to be put in this district,” he said.

Mr. Russell said he asked state representatives if Southold could pull out of the proposed district if the majority of Southold property owners objected, but he’s still waiting to hear back on an answer to his question.

Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Committee Chairman Richard Wines and a group of volunteers from Riverhead have been working for nearly two years to compile 200 pages of documentation and more than 1,000 photographs of historic buildings and properties along the Main Road.

The effort began not long after a group called “Save Main Road” formed to prevent runaway commercial expansion outside of the current town code requirements along the Main Road in Riverhead Town. The historic district would begin at Route 105 in Aquebogue.

Though owners of properties in the district would not generally be restricted in what they could do with their land, they would receive tax credits if they chose to do historic renovations of their properties.

“It brings prestige and is a selling tool for realtors,” said Mr. Wines.

Mr. Wines said he’d hoped to generate press coverage by attending town board meetings before the letter was sent out by the state, but it was sent before he could do the outreach he’d planned.

“They got ahead of themselves,” he said.

Mr. Wines added that property owners, who had originally had until early September to write to the state about their concerns over the historic district, will now have until December to do so.

Helicopter Forum Set

Southold Town has set its public forum on helicopter noise for Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. at the Peconic Lane Recreation Center. Members of several Citizens Advisory Committees from the Sag Harbor and Noyac area will be on hand to discuss their issues with noise.

“We do have friends on the South Fork in the Noyac and Sag Harbor areas,” said Mr. Russell at Tuesday’s work session. “We’ll talk about what we need to do as a community to help facilitate the creation of a Citizens Advisory Committee on the North Fork.”

What to do with Churches

Southold’s planning department is looking into creating a “historic preservation overlay district,” which would expand the uses allowed in old schools, churches, firehouses and cemeteries which are currently zoned for residential use.

“This is a voluntary allocation. You’d apply for it as a change of zone,” said Mr. Russell at Tuesday’s work session. “This is not applying our will as a change of zone.”

Town Planner Mark Terry said the town’s Landmark Preservation Commission will likely decide which buildings qualify for the zoning, which would allow indoor markets, child care facilities, offices and perhaps apartments in some of these buildings.

Mr. Terry said the North Fork Community Theater and the Cutchogue-New Suffolk library are both good examples of the adaptive reuse the town would like to see of historic churches.

The proposal will now go to the town board’s code committee for review of potential uses of churches.

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

2 thoughts on “Southold Hears Complaints on Historic District, Sets Helicopter Meeting

  1. Correction: Save Main Road was NOT “formed to stop commercial expansion along the Main Road.” We firmly respect the rights of private property owners to develop their land. Our simple focus is to ensure that the various codes & laws which govern & guide such development are properly observed.

    –Larry Simms for Save Main Road

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