A Southampton pest control business owner was issued a stop-work order after he began cutting down trees on his Mattituck property last month.
In a Jan. 30 interview, John Bennett said he had been trying to access the property, located across from McDonald’s on Main Road, so surveyors and architects could examine it when he was ticketed by a town police officer who told him he couldn’t park on the road’s shoulder.
Because the vacant 1.04-acre property is covered in trees, Mr. Bennett said he went to the town’s building department, where an employee reportedly gave him permission to clear some of them to create room for parking.
Town attorney Bill Duffy, however, said the building department denies ever doing so.
“When we went to the building department, they said they did not authorize it,” Mr. Duffy said last week. He noted that Mr. Bennett has not filed a site plan for the property, meaning no building permits could have been issued.
Landscaping crews were clearing trees at the site Jan. 27 but were stopped by a town code enforcement officer who had received a complaint from a neighboring business.
Mr. Bennett said he had the right to clear enough trees to park his vehicles on the lot, which he hopes to turn into office space or a storage facility.
“I just don’t understand how you can buy a property, pay taxes and not be able to go on the land,” he said. He added that he was about to file site plans for the property but hadn’t done so as of Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Bennett, who purchased the property last year, was in a previous dispute with the town over a sign that was placed on the property that the town claimed was against town code. He has worked on the North Fork for 25 years through his pest control business but said he’s becoming frustrated by the run-ins with the town over his Main Road lot.
“At this point I might just sell the lot,” he said. “It’s been aggravating.”
According to Mr. Duffy, the town attorney’s office plans to discuss the tree-clearing incident in more depth with Mr. Bennett soon, as the town wants to give him “the benefit of the doubt.”
However, neither Mr. Bennett nor Mr. Duffy responded to numerous calls seeking comment about the outcome of that discussion or what the next steps might be.
Photo caption: Work crews begin clearing a section of woods on Main Road in Mattituck late last month. Later that same day Southold Town ordered the work stopped, claiming the property owner did not have the proper permits. (Credit: Paul Squire)