Parents and senior citizens say there’s a dire lack of recreational activities in Southold Town. And at a town Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Thursday, dozens of residents said Sports East — a proposed private sports facility in Mattituck — is just what the town needs.
During a public hearing to discuss the proposal, those in attendance overwhelmingly said they’d support Sports East LLC partners Paul Pawlowski, Steve Marsh and Joe Slovak’s plan to build an indoor/outdoor sports facility on Main Road.
“As someone who grew up in Mattituck, there isn’t a lot for kids to do,” said Mattituck-Cutchogue Elementary PTA president Lisa Fox. “We see people in trouble all of the time with drugs and alcohol and, hopefully, this will be another outlet for children to go to be constructive and healthy.”
The developers have said the facility would be similar to the Southampton Youth Services recreation center, which is located more than 40 minutes from Mattituck.
Sports East is proposing to build outdoor athletic fields closer to Main Road, including a synthetic field for multiple sports, as well as tennis and pickleball courts. Lighting for the outdoor fields isn’t included in the proposal.
While hours of operation haven’t been finalized, Mr. Pawlowski estimates the facility could be opened between 5:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. A 32-seat healthy cafe for members is also planned for the facility, he added.
Several athletic facilities are also proposed for the building’s interior, including: one synthetic field for multiple sports, one swimming pool, one basketball court, four tennis courts, two batting cages, a gym, space for yoga and spin classes, and locker rooms.
As for the configuration of the sports facility, Mr. Pawlowski said fields for loud sports such as tennis and soccer will be located closer to the road.
In addition, pre- and after-care programs for schoolchildren are planned.
Ms. Fox and others cited The Suffolk Times Jan. 28 cover story about the area’s heroin epidemic and said they believe a sports facility will improve the area’s quality of life and give young adults and children productive activities to do, especially in the winter.
Ms. Fox told the ZBA she supports the project because there aren’t any spaces for indoor sports nearby. She said she now drives her children to indoor facilities in Selden and Bellport for sports practices.
Adrienne Weber, an 80-year-old North Fork resident, said it’s not just the children who would benefit. She said traveling out of town for recreation as a senior is burdensome.
“There’s a need here for the seniors,” she said. “I moved back to the North Fork to be closer to my children. Hopefully I don’t have to become a burden to them and [can] stay healthy by having water aerobics and swimming available to me.
“I just hope and pray it happens,” she added.
While most residents praised the proposal, a few raised concerns about traffic and membership fees.
Mr. Pawlowski said he’ll work with the state Department of Transportation to mitigate traffic congestion and said Sports East will offer tiered memberships in order to maintain affordable options.
For example, he said memberships will be available separately for tennis, swimming and soccer. In addition, he said an “anonymous scholarship fund” will be provided annually to people who can’t afford a membership.
In addition, he said he’s looking into include a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system and a salt-water pool.
“This partnership is created by the Pawlowski family, the Marsh family and Slovak family,” he said. “We’re fully dedicated as three Southold Town families to do this … I think that’s a key ingredient because all three families have nothing but respect for this community.”
Mr. Pawlowski is the same developer who had previously proposed a mixed-use development for the property and, before that, an affordable rental complex. He withdrew both applications after receiving pushback from the community.
After Thursday’s meeting, many residents met and congratulated Mr. Pawloski, gathering around to shake his hand. He said the feedback he’s received so far for Sports East has been “the best” he’s ever received on any of his development proposals.
“It’s a testament to the reality that this is needed,” Mr. Pawlowski said, adding he’s very optimistic about the proposal will be approved and could be built within eight months following the town review process.
Sports East doesn’t need to seek a change of zone because the property’s existing residential zoning allows annual membership clubs with a special exception from the ZBA.
The ZBA decided to leave the public hearing open for public comment and is awaiting a study about potential environmental impacts, known as SEQRA.
ZBA chairperson Leslie Kanes Weisman said the ZBA will hold another public hearing to discuss SEQRA findings.
Top photo: Mattituck Cutchogue Elementary PTA Lisa Fox at Thursday’s ZBA meeting. Ms. Fox said she believes the community is in dire need of an indoor sports facility.