Subdivision vote put on hold until property is replanted

05/26/2011 6:06 AM |

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Southold resident Joe Battaglia is building a 5,300-square-foot house on Hobart Road. His neighbors worry about added development if his property is subdivided.

Joseph Battaglia’s plan to subdivide his 2.3-acre property on Hobart Road in Southold is on hold until Southold’s Planning Board is satisfied with his progress at planting new trees on the property.

Mr. Battaglia came under fire from neighbors at a public hearing on the subdivision before the Planning Board last month, at which many decried both his extensive clearing of the land and the large house he’s building on one side of the property.
Mr. Battaglia already has permits in place to build the house.

Mr. Battaglia and his attorney, Patricia Moore, appeared before the Planning Board at a work session Monday night, and both were surprised to learn that board members felt so strongly about the planting.

Ms. Moore said she and her client had received a letter asking them to appear before the board but “the letter didn’t say we weren’t going to go forward. Nowhere did we anticipate we weren’t having a meeting to go forward. … We’d like to get moving on the comments from the public. The planting is a side issue.”

Town planner Mark Terry countered that replanting trees to screen the house from neighbors “was one of the most important things from the beginning.”

“Buffering is integral to this subdivision,” he added.

But, citing Mr. Battaglia’s property rights, Ms. Moore said that if neighbors want to dictate how the property should be developed, they should buy the property.

“There are a certain amount of constitutional rights here,” she said.

Mr. Battaglia said he’s looking for trees that will both provide screening and add color to his property and is scouring nurseries throughout the East End to find the perfect trees. He said his landscaper hadn’t taken screening the property from neighbors into account when designing the landscape plan.

Planning Board members suggested that Mr. Battaglia plant a number of blue spruce and Leyland cypress trees, to provide year-round screening from the neighborhood along with the Norway spruces and white pines already on the property.

“This is a big issue. It’s an important part of the whole project,” said Planning Board member Don Wilcenski. “When you’re done planting, we’ll take a look and sign off on it.”

“As far as I’m concerned, you can’t plant enough,” said Planning Board chairman Martin Sidor.

Mr. Terry was skeptical of the Planning Board’s ability to do anything about some other issues raised at the public hearing.

A dock on the section of the property that would remain vacant after the subdivision was a matter for the Town Trustees, he said. He added that neighbors have asked the Planning Board to limit the size of any structure on the second lot to less than what the town’s current zoning allows, which is something that the Planning Board cannot do.


Pindar Vineyard on Route 25 in Peconic is planning to relocate a 3,259-square-foot steel storage building to a spot 600 feet back from the road on the vineyard property. Until last year, the building had stood behind the winery building, but it was dismantled and a deck was built behind the winery instead. The reassembled building would be used to store tractors, harvesters and other large machinery. Planning Board members did not take issue with the request, which will be scheduled for a future vote.

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4 Comment

  • >> something that the Planning Board cannot do

    The Planning Board has a duty to decide individual applications, it also has a duty to consider the cumulative ( ) effects of such applications.

    What the Planning Board Can Do

    The Planning Board can and should report to the Town Board if the current laws are inadequate to protect the public interest. Real property rights are threatened by the delusion of impermeable real property lines.

    Does the Planning Board think the current laws are sufficient to prevent destructive changes in the neighborhood and around our Town?

  • It seems odd to me that neither Mr. Battaglia nor his attorney would be “surprised” into thinking that trees “are such a big issue.” Particularly when a house that commands over 14,000 square feet (and has a footprint of way over 7,000 square feet including the garage) is taking up nearly the entire building envelope of a property — and almost accounts for the entire clearing limit of the land. I don’t believe the Planning Board is acting rashly. Clearing limits are clearing limits, and just because one owns a piece of land doesn’t mean that one can do as one pleases. We all have to respect the rules regardless of how much money we purport to have. Thank you, Mr. Sidor, Mr. Terry, Mr. Wilcenski, and all other members of the Board for keeping the community’s best interest at heart. And personally, regardless of whether or not one thinks that Mr. Battaglia has constructed a thing of beauty or a monstrosity, I agree with Mr. Sidor based on the sheer size and height of this structure alone. You can’t plant enough trees to sheild the public from the sight of this.

    As far as whether or not current laws are inadequate to protect the public interest, yes that’s sadly another matter. But as this kind of thing happens more and more in our town, we’ll have to make some hard decisions.

    And Mr. Battaglia, if Ms. Moore’s advice to you is that the town and your neighbors are trying to encroach on your constitutional rights and that perhaps your neighbors should buy you out, I suggest you start interviewing other attorneys.

  • Yep… blame it on the landscaper when in reality, it’s YOUR HOUSE… If I had the means to afford such gaudy luxury as this overly costumed “jewel” of a house, I would hopefully also have the presence of mind and moral respect for others not to flash it around like the 20 kt cubic zirconia it is..
    The reasoning is: Since Mr. B has decided to rip up a mass of tress, why not add some to replace the beauty of the natural setting that was once there… a responsible, moral homeowner with that much cash to spare would take that into consideration and not leave the landscaper holding the bag… but Oh well, it’s the “american way” to foist the blame onto others.

  • Hmm. Where have we read stories about owners clearcutting their land and building fugly homes that eventually languish on the market? Oh yes:

    Hard to believe this monstrosity received planning approval in the first place. For God’s sake, DO cover that thing up with landscaping!