When horse trainer Lucille Sullivan opened the May 14 issue of Today’s Equestrian magazine, she was surprised to see an advertisement for a riding academy relocating to a property just six miles from her Southold farm.
The ad boasted that the new facility on Main Road in Mattituck would feature two state-of-the-art outdoor rings, an indoor arena, an obstacle field, a bridle path around the property, a round pen, large grass paddocks and newly finished stalls.
“We also have quality ponies for sale and lease,” the advertisement read.
It’s a much different description from the one on the site plan application for the 24-acre property, which was reviewed Monday night by the Southold Town Planning Board. That plan calls for three horse barns on the preserved farm, where an outdoor riding/training area is also being proposed.
But there are two words in the description of the proposed site plan, filed June 20, that might help explain why all those details are not included in the proposed site plan: phase one.
And those two words have neighbors of the facility concerned for the future of their community.
“How many phases are there?” Gabriella Court resident Derek McLean asked the Planning Board. “This is very vague.”
The farm, previously owned by Pindar Vineyards, was purchased for nearly $1 million on Dec. 5, 2013, by Showalter Farms LLC, a corporation formed last year by former Southold Town Ethics Board member Christopher Showalter. Mr. Showalter, a physical therapist who was attending a conference in New Orleans this week, did not attend the hearing Monday. He was instead represented by architect Ray Nemschick of Nemschick Silverman Architects in Cutchogue.
Mr. Nemschick said Mr. Showalter of Southold and his wife, Joanne —who was present but did not speak at the hearing — want to open “a scenic, family-friendly” commercial equine operation on the property. They plan to grow agricultural products while raising and training horses there, he said. They also hope to give riding lessons to the public on the four acres of the property not encumbered by the conservation easement, he added.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Ms. Showalter said the family ultimately “just wants to run a horse farm.”
“This is the beginning of this process,” she said.
Mr. Showalter, who called The Suffolk Times from the airport in New Orleans Tuesday, said he “understands people’s concerns and knows that nobody likes change.
“We’re trying to be respectful,” he said. “This is a right-to-farm town.”
Records obtained from the Southold Town planning department show that Showalter Farms made the town aware of its intentions to build a riding academy as early as January, when the town’s land preservation committee issued a letter to the Showalters outlining permitted uses on the preserved 20 acres of the property. The Showalters also submitted plans to the town’s building department indicating they planned to construct an eight-stall horse barn on the property. The building department then advised them that they would likely need approval from the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, planning department records show.
However, the official site plan application wasn’t filed until June 20, 15 days after a stop-work order was issued at the property when a town code enforcement officer determined construction had begun without Planning Board approval or a building permit, records show.
Ms. Showalter said the only construction on the property had to do with re-siding an existing barn and placing a pre-fab barn that was purchased out of town.
Two weeks after the stop-work order was issued, the property was reviewed by a building inspector and a planning department staffer who agreed the farm would need site plan approval from the Planning Board and a special exception from the ZBA, records show. The ZBA is hosting a hearing on the Showalter Farms special exception at 11 a.m. today, Thursday, Aug. 7. Mr. Showalter said he plans to attend that hearing.