For Mattituck Inlet neighbors, proposed subdivision is one too many

07/07/2015 1:40 PM |
Robert DeLuca, CEO of Group for the East End, speaks at a public hearing Monday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Robert DeLuca, CEO of Group for the East End, speaks at a public hearing Monday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Mattituck Inlet has already been designated as an “impaired watershed” by the Department of Environmental Conservation, but neighbors and environmentalists are worried that a proposed subdivision for one of the few remaining open spaces near the inlet will only make things worse.

“What’s going to happen to that creek?” said Robert DeLuca, president and CEO of the environmental advocacy organization Group for the East End. “It used to be a great creek. Now it’s got problems.”

About a dozen advocates and neighbors who live near the proposed subdivision off Wickham Avenue made their concerns known at a nearly hour-long public hearing before the town’s planning board Monday night.

The subdivision would break up a single plot of 5.1 acres into four separate properties; simultaneously, the Town Board is considering setting aside three of the lots for housing, while designating the fourth on the corner of Wickham and County Route 48 for limited business use.

The current property is unique since it’s split-zoned, meaning part of the property is listed as residential while the other part is business. Abigail Wickham, the attorney for the property owner Harold Reeve & Sons Inc., said the family who owned the land needed to sell it and was seeking both a subdivision and a zoning change to make that easier.

The proposal would actually limit the types of businesses allowed on the property, which now include convenience stores, laundromats or indoor theaters, she said.

“There is a very, very long list of uses that will no longer be allowed to occur,” Ms. Wickham said; however, Ms. Wickham had opposed a Planning Board designation last year that prohibited wineries at the location, according to a Suffolk Times article from June 2014. She had agreed at the time that hotels were inappropriate for the property, the article states.

At Monday’s hearing, neighbors took issue with more development for the area, especially without a set tenant for the proposed business lot.

“This is an application to add more into an already complicated mix of uses and properties and natural features,” said resident Benja Schwartz.

“It is my backyard,” added Raymond Smilovic, who lives across the street from the property. “I want to know what’s going there before they start building.”

Bill Toedter, president of the North Fork Environmental Council, said more development could add further nitrogen into the creek, which could damage water quality by fueling algal blooms like those that killed thousands of bunker in the Peconic River last month.

Mr. Toedter also took issue with alleged inconsistencies in the subdivision application; for example, the number of phases of construction to be done was marked “not applicable,” he said.

He also said utility companies appear to be starting work to bring gas and water services to the property before they have been approved.

“The question is, in our minds, who jumped the gun and why?” he asked. “This doesn’t seem like the proper process.” Ms. Wickham said the applicant knew nothing about the actions.

Mr. DeLuca, the other environmental advocate who spoke, said his organization simply wanted the process to be followed, especially considering the Town Board’s rezoning decision is being debated at the same time.

“As we move forward to the next phase here, the Town Board piece really needs to catch up,” he said.

Leroy Heyliger, who lives near the property, said he “hates to be a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)” but urged the board to be cautious with the subdivision. Mr. Heyliger, a Vietnam veteran, said three things were there for him after the war: his family, his church and his “God’s little acre” plot in Mattituck.

“We North Forkers are being deluged with developers where they can put up restaurants hotels and similar structures with little regard for residents,” he said. “I see it as an infringement on me and my neighbor’s quality of life.”

The Planning Board left the hearing open after neighbors spoke and said the topic would be discussed again at their next meeting on Aug. 3.

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