Southold Votes Yes on Eminent Domain, Comp Plan, Plum Island Ferry Zoning
Pictured Above: The Mattituck corner that has been slated for a hardware store.
The Southold Town Board exerted its authority over land use within the town in several major ways Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 8, adopting resolutions to take a controversial Mattituck property slated for development of a hardware store through eminent domain, adopting a Comprehensive Plan that’s been in the works for a decade, and rezoning the Plum Island ferry property in Orient to ensure it remains a site for ferry access to the island.
The most controversial of the measures was the adoption of a Findings & Determination Statement to use eminent domain to force the Brinkmann Hardware Corporation to sell its 1.75 acre property on the corner of the Main Road and New Suffolk Avenue in Mattituck to the town for use as a public park. The measure passed in a 4-2 vote, with town board members Sarah Nappa and Jim Dinizio voting against it.
The Brinkmanns, who own several hardware stores on Long Island, including a flagship store in Sayville, had been planning to place two buildings, a paint store and a hardware store totaling 10,000 square feet on the site.
The property has been dubbed by neighbors and civic groups as Mattituck’s “Last Green Corner,” and had been mentioned as the potential site of a park in the town’s 2005 hamlet study of Mattituck, and a 2011 corridor study of the same area.
The proposal was the subject of a hotly contested virtual public hearing Aug. 11.
Mr. Dinizio was the only board member to make a statement as he cast his vote, questioning why, if the town had valued the property for use as a park, it had not changed the zoning from hamlet business before the Brinkmanns purchased it.
“The town had plenty of time to make a positive move to bring the wishes of the community to reality,” said Mr. Dinizio. “This property sat idle for years in the hands of an owner who did not have a plan for its use… I believe strongly that our code is the guiding document for all zoning issues in the town. When someone buys a property, they should feel confident the town will stand by it (the zoning of the property).”
Southold will need to file an acquisition map with Suffolk County to complete the purchase, which is required to be made at fair market value.
The town will also need to publish notice of its Findings and Determination statement in five successive issues of Newsday and two successive issues of the Suffolk Times, after which the property owners have 30 days to seek judicial review of the town’s findings through the appellate division of Suffolk County Supreme Court.
The town board also unanimously approved its Comprehensive Plan with little fanfare Tuesday afternoon, though several community leaders applauded the adoption of the document at a public hearing later in the meeting on the Plum Island Ferry property.
Community and environmental leaders had shared boisterous support for the adoption of the plan at an Aug. 25 public hearing.
“The greatest land use and conservation achievements across the region” have come from comprehensive plan efforts, Group for the East End President Bob DeLuca had said at the Aug. 25 hearing. “They give a strategic blueprint for the future of what a community wants to be and specify how to get there. The lack of strong planning and comprehensive zoning are responsible for any number of land use disasters. Once they start piling up, you can lose everything that is truly important to people who live here.”
The rezoning of the nine-acre Plum Island Ferry property from Marine II to a new zoning district, Marine III, which would permit the property to be used solely as a ferry terminal with a small museum, is designed to ensure the property remains in use for ferry access to the island. The board passed the proposal unanimously after a public hearing in which all speakers supported it.
The former Marine II zoning district would have allowed the property to be redeveloped as a marina, boatyard, yacht club, mariculture operation and marine repair facility, and would also allow restaurants and hotels by special exception.
A Marine III zoning district was added to the town code last December, and this public hearing was on rezoning this particular property as Marine III.
Louise Harrison, the New York Natural Areas Coordinator for Save the Sound, said at the public hearing that “preserving the means for ferry travel is a critically important component for the creation of the Plum Island Preserve.”
Ms. Harrison and Save the Sound have been actively engaged with the Envision Plum Island project, which unveiled its proposal for a future preserve on the federally owned island earlier this summer.
She added that allowing a small museum on the ferry property, “falls in line completely with the region’s vision,” and could accommodate more people than could be sustainably accommodated on the island itself.
Bob DeLuca, of the Group for the East End, said the rezoning “puts the final piece of the land use puzzle together” for the Plum Island zoning effort.
Southold Town had zoned the island for use as a research facility with a large conservation area several years ago, after the federal government began plans to replace the animal disease laboratory there with one in Kansas and sell the island to the highest bidder.
“Ensuring the ferry use be kept in place offers significant value to research or conservation efforts on the island,” he said.
“It’s a nice coincidence that this is the same night you adopted the Comprehensive Plan. It’s certainly part of the long range planning of the town,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski of rezoning the ferry property. “It’s a very good example of the town exerting its local control over land use. Southold is a town that has a vision for its future and has a lot of community support for that vision and includes the community in its land use decisions.”