Mattituck residents had mixed reactions to a recently released study of the business corridor when more than 60 turned out for a forum on the town-sponsored study at the Southold Town Human Resources Center in Mattituck Tuesday night.
Some praised the plan’s call for more uses to be allowed at industrial properties in the Love Lane area near the Long Island Rail Road tracks. Others said a few of its ideas, such as allowing another building at Mattituck Plaza shopping center close to the street, were half-baked.
“Most people here would laugh at you if you said there was plenty of room in that parking lot” for another building in the Plaza, said Michael Burke. “Somebody’s plan of putting a building in the middle of this thing just doesn’t seem to cut it with me.”
Gail Wickham said that she and her neighbors who own property on the west end of the corridor study area are baffled that the study suggests limiting retail and restaurant uses in the business district.
“I find it somewhat unfair and mystifying that you’re stripping away valuable property rights from some areas,” she said. That section of the corridor would be an ideal place for more retail and restaurant uses, she said, citing its large lots that can accommodate sanitary fields and parking, and its position between a major road and a railroad line.
Jack McGreevy asked why the planners who prepared the study hadn’t considered making Love Lane a one-way street.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell said that federal law requires that a post office must be on a two-way street, and that the Mattituck post office, in a rented space on Love Lane, would have to move if the street became one-way.
The study was prepared for the town by the consulting firm of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis. Mr. Russell said that the town plans to hold several more community forums for the public to discuss the corridor study.
He and Planning Director Heather Lanza said that the town would not act right away on recommendations in the plan for zoning changes, but will probably fold any proposals into an updated comprehensive plan for the town that is currently being prepared.
Some ideas, such as developing design guidelines for new construction in historic sections of the hamlet and seeking grant money for infrastructure improvements, will be implemented in the short term, they said.
Real estate agent Tom McCarthy of Southold, who owns some vacant properties in a light industrial area of Mattituck that the study recommends be rezoned to allow limited retail use, urged the board to act on the idea.
“The sooner we can get that done, the better,” he said. “I’ve got the opportunity to lease some of the space now.”
Of particular concern to many people who attended the forum was the heavy truck traffic that uses Factory Avenue to reach the Waldbaum’s supermarket at the Plaza. The study estimated that 1,000 vehicles use Factory Avenue each day, though residents said that figure was from 2009 and the number had gone up since then.
Leroy Heyliger, who is the deacon at Unity Baptist Church on Factory Avenue, said that a 52-foot-long truck recently blocked traffic for 45 minutes while the driver tried to position it at the loading dock behind Waldbaum’s. He said the incident was not unusual.
“School buses couldn’t get through,” he said. “When that loading dock was put there it was for box trucks, not 52-footers.”
Mr. Russell said that the town plans to meet with the regional manager of Waldbaum’s in the upcoming weeks in an attempt to get the store to notify its vendors to park elsewhere on the Mattituck Plaza site.
Barry Barth, who owns Barth’s Pharmacy on Love Lane, said that he hoped the town would “keep in mind the quality of life on Love Lane.”
“It’s phenomenal how beautiful that street is and it needs to be maintained,” he said. “I also own Barth’s Drug Store on Main Street in Riverhead. I know firsthand what no planning did to Riverhead. There are now about three viable businesses on Main Street.”
Mr. Barth urged Southold Town to have the courage to say no to big box stores.
The Southold town code prohibits stores that are larger than 8,000 square feet, with the exception of existing grocery stores.
Marie Dominici urged the board to “just say no to corporate America.”
“We want to keep local people employed. If we have to compete with corporate America, it’s going to put a lot of people out of work,” she said.
A high school student named Nicole told the crowd that Mattituck needs more recreational facilities for youth.
Mr. Russell agreed. “Peconic has become the de facto recreational hub” even though “it’s equally inconvenient for everyone,” said Mr. Russell. He added that zoning allowed for a metal smelting plant, but doesn’t allow for a laser tag facility for youth. He said that one of the goals of the upcoming comprehensive plan will be to expand the types of businesses allowed under the town code.
Mike Avella, who owns Love Lane Kitchen, urged the board to provide better signs directing motorists to the municipal parking lots surrounding Love Lane.
“Love Lane is a small block. It can get pretty busy. There are parking problems,” he said, adding that many people don’t even know that the parking lots are there.