Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell gave his sixth annual State of the Town address Thursday night.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell gave his sixth annual State of the Town address Thursday night.

With Southold’s Community Preservation Fund coffers filled to the brim thanks to the rising real estate market, Town Supervisor Scott Russell pledged that the town would aggressively pursue land preservation in 2015 at his sixth annual State of the Town address Thursday night.

Before a packed crowd of community members and town department heads, Mr. Russell also pledged to address affordable housing, coastal erosion, aquaculture and short-term rentals through websites such as AirBNB.

Mr. Russell said that the town had budgeted for $3.8 million in CPF revenue for 2014, but by the time they closed the books on last year, they’d brought in more than $6 million.

“The market has recovered and the funds are coming in,” he said.

Mr. Russell also pointed out that the town had preserved 74 acres of farmland in 2014.

While that preservation had cost more than $4.7 million, town land preservation coordinator Melissa Spiro helped Southold acquire $2.4 million in federal and state grants to enable that preservation.

Mr. Russell also said he wants to bring the town’s Conservation Advisory Council back in to discuss their recent report on how Southold should handle coastal erosion. He wasn’t in attendance at a work session in January where other members of the town board discussed the report.

“We need to accept that report. We need to focus on coastal resiliency, particularly with rising sea levels,” he said. “This is a serious issue that is not going to go away.”

Mr. Russell also said the town is planning to address post-storm needs in its emergency preparedness discussions, in light of power outages after hurricanes Sandy and Irene.

“The town is looking at creating a facility where people can go to find electric and showers,” he said. “That’s going to take some doing and some financing.”

Mr. Russell also said he believes the town needs to have a robust discussion about affordable housing, in light of the recent withdrawal of a proposal for a large affordable apartment complex in Mattituck.

“If there’s opposition to affordable housing, let it be for the right reasons,” he said. “Thie time for discussion on this is every day of the week.”

“Seventy-five apartmet units on a property in Southold Town in one hamlet is probably too many apartments to absorb at one time,” he said. “But I do think we need to understand that concept was an excellent concept in Southold Town. Affordable apartments are going to solve the problem. For many of the people on the affordable housing registry, home ownership is a long way away.”

The town is hosting a forum on affordable housing on March 11 at 6 p.m. at the Peconic Lane Community Center.

Mr. Russell also said the town will make code changes this year to enable more aquaculture here, after public outcry earlier this year over a proposed shrimp farm that could have been in a residential area.

“We need to make code changes to accomodate new business models,” he said. “They do belong here. Our agricultural heritage and small businesses are one and the same. We need to do something.”

Mr. Russell said the town will also do something to address the proliferation of short-term rentals through AirBNB.

“We will probably pick a solution that will make both sides a little unhappy,” he said.

He said Southold also hopes to pressure the DEC to open up more shellfish beds, which have been closed thanks to lack of testing due to staff cutbacks at the DEC.

Also on the horizon for 2015 is the unveiling of the land use chapter of the town’s comprehensive plan, which will propose zoning changes that will address issues raised in other chapters of the plan which have already been prepared.

“We need a lot of public buy-in on this,” he said. “This is where the rubber meets the road.”


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

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