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Plan for Mattituck sports center withdrawn after Planning Board review frustrates applicant

07/11/2016 6:27 PM |

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A proposal for a membership-only sports facility on Main Road in Mattituck was abruptly withdrawn at Monday afternoon’s Planning Board work session meeting, after the board found numerous potential environmental impacts to the project and was set to require additional studies.

Developer Paul Pawlowski, his voice and hands shaking, said at Monday’s meeting that he felt the application for Sports East had addressed all the Planning Board’s concerns, adding that the developers answered the single question the board had asked of them.

“Through all the pre-planning… we mitigated every possible aspect when it comes to [environmental review],” he said. “To have this happen four months later is outright disgusting.”

Mr. Pawlowski said the additional reviews would cost an additional $100,000 on top of the $103,000 the developers had already spent on environmental reviews.

“You guys cost our town this project,” he said before getting up and leaving the meeting. Charles Cuddy, the attorney for the developers, later formally withdrew the application, telling a reporter that he had never seen a similar project go through the same level of review.

“It’s really sad it’s come to this,” Mr. Cuddy said.

Assistant Town Planning Director Mark Terry recommended a “positive” declaration for the Sports East project, meaning the planning board staff had found at least one “moderate to significant” impact that could be associated with the project. It was far more than just one impact: Mr. Terry cited 13 traffic concerns, groundwater quality and quantity concerns, as well as potential impacts to surface water, energy consumption, noise, aesthetics, plant and wildlife habitats and “consistency with community character.”

Sports East would have featured a “state-of-the-art” gym, indoor and outdoor fields and tennis courts, an indoor pool, indoor running track, yoga platforms and batting cages.

All the concerns cited a “moderate” potential impact that required further study, Mr. Terry said. That determination had been made despite suggestions by the applicants to mitigate any impacts.

Planning Board chairman Donald Wilcenski said the board members were “doing our due diligence.” He said the staff had concerns about a previous traffic study, which he said didn’t factor in a nearby business.

The staff’s determination appeared to shock Mr. Pawlowski, a Mattituck resident, and Mr. Cuddy, who said he felt the determination was a pretext to delay the application, first made last December. The applicant said previous discussions with the planning staff had implied further reviews wouldn’t be needed.

Mr. Cuddy said other projects and businesses, like Peconic Landing in Greenport and the Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm gift shop in Cutchogue, had not been subject to the same additional reviews.

“To find this has an impact is remarkable to me,” Mr. Cuddy said. “It’s hard to believe you could find an impact. You have to speculate. You have to really speculate.”

“I couldn’t be more upset,” added Mr. Pawlowski. “This is not normal.”

When asked about Mr. Cuddy’s comments, Planning Director Heather Lanza said the christmas tree business in Cutchogue was considered a farmstand and thus wasn’t subject to the same level of review. She couldn’t confirm whether Peconic Landing had needed further review when it was originally built.

“It’s hard to compare one project to another,” she said. “To me, the process worked.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Pawlowski said he was “in no mood for comment.” Sports East now marks the third failed application at the site for Mr. Pawlowski, who had previously proposed a mixed-use development and an affordable rental complex for the area before running into opposition from residents.

A civic leader who had attended the meeting also declined comment. Mary Eisenstein, president of the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association, had attended the meeting to follow the progress of the Sports East proposal and said she was “still trying to process” what happened.” Members of the civic have spoken out against Mr. Pawlowski’s projects in the past.

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