03/04/17 10:50pm
03/04/2017 10:50 PM

Tourists may know Southold Town for its wineries, open fields and beaches, but equally important are the historic buildings dotting the landscape. Southold’s dozens of registered historic structures help create its characteristic small-town feel, advocates say.

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11/22/16 3:14pm
11/22/2016 3:14 PM

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As Southold Town uses its Community Preservation Fund to buy land and development rights for open space, some people are asking why that money can’t also be spent on a $1,000 annual bonus for those who own historic houses.

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01/16/14 3:00pm
01/16/2014 3:00 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Southold Town is looking to amend its wireless facilities code to permit cell towers on historic sites, such as the parcel behind Town Hall.

A plan to install a cellphone tower behind Southold Town Hall — and amend the town code to permit that — is drawing heat from residents who fear more towers would threaten the area’s small-town charm and present potential health risks.

More than two dozen people rallied Tuesday night for the first public hearing on the proposed code change. Most voiced an overwhelming resistance to the proposed amendment.

“You are simply changing the law to shoehorn these eyesores in the middle of our historic district,” said Robert Harper of the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, who noted that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the commission. “It’s like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.”

As it stands, wireless communication facilities located within a designated historic district must be concealed within or behind an existing building, such as a church steeple, so that the tower is not visible to the public, according to the draft law.

The proposed code change would permit freestanding wireless towers on vacant, commercially zoned land, regardless of the parcel’s landmark status or designation as a historic district.

The move to revise a section of the town code comes after communications giant AT&T submitted an application requesting to construct a freestanding, 100-foot cellphone tower on a vacant lot behind Town Hall on Traveler Street. In addition to the tower, the application also calls for the construction of a small equipment storage shed on the site.

“If this passes I would consider it the tallest monument to short-sightedness,” Mr. Harper said.

Health risks were a repeated concern among residents at the meeting.

“I know that as of yet there is no documented proof that radio waves from cellphone towers cause any kind of public health risk, but I also know that 60 or 70 years ago people thought cigarette smoking was a dynamite thing to do,” said Adrian Lynch, who lives nearby on Youngs Avenue. “Its proximity to our schools in Southold Town concerns me. In 50, 60 years from now when it comes to light that putting these things near growing bodies isn’t [healthy for people], I don’t think you’d want to be on the wrong side of that discovery.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said the town has little wiggle room when it comes to the placement of the tower, due to Federal Communications Commission regulations.

“The proposal is not to introduce a new cellphone tower to Southold, the proposal is to guide the location of a cellphone tower [whose building] is imminent,” Mr. Russell said. “The FCC is removing more and more authority from local jurisdiction. They are making it clear that they want to remove local zoning authority over cell towers. The Town Board’s vision is that if we are going to have to live with it, at the very least we can try to extend the benefit to as many taxpayers as possible, because it is a revenue source.”

The cost to build the proposed AT&T cell tower is approximately $125,000, according to the building permit application.

With the town’s traditional revenue sources — including real estate taxes — drying up, Mr. Russell said the project could create a new source of income that would benefit taxpayers.

The revenue would come primarily from AT&T leasing the land, Mr. Russell said. While there is a signed agreement between the two parties, which are still in leaseholder discussions, Mr. Russell could not immediately provide estimates on the total annual revenue for the town.

Even if the amendment to the local draft law was passed, the town’s Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Historic Preservation Commission would still be responsible for reviewing any wireless tower application before it’s approved, the supervisor said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the Town Board provided letters from the Planning Board and the Suffolk County Planning Commission in support of the code change.

The Historic Preservation Commission has yet to provide an official opinion on the proposal, Mr. Russell said.

The board left the public hearing open until the Historic Preservation Commission could weigh in on the matter.

Commission chairman Jim Grathwohl could not be reached for comment.

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07/19/13 3:00pm
07/19/2013 3:00 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Mike Malkush of the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council (left) and Jim Grathwohl, chairman of the Southold Town Historic Preservation Commission, outside Sacred Heart Church.

More than seven months after the Diocese of Rockville Centre ordered Sacred Heart Parish Church in Cutchogue to close its doors the future of the property remains unclear.

“We’ve had no communication with the Diocese,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said. “We are very concerned about how this will end.”

Amid rumors the diocese is considering demolishing the church Mr. Russell, joined by members of the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, last week wrote a letter to the diocese requesting to be included in any discussion regarding the property’s future.

“It would be a shame for them to demolish it,” said Jim Grathwohl, chairman of the Southold Town Historic Preservation Commission. “It’s an historic structure in Cutchogue.”

On Tuesday, diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said, “We are not aware of any plans for the building. We are continuing to evaluate the best use of the building for the parishioners in Cutchogue.”

The church building dates back to the 1870s, gaining parish status in 1901 under Rev. John McKenna. The church is listed as a town landmark, and its historic value has been recognized by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities and the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

The church, which originally served the Irish community, held its last Mass in January.

The diocese has said an inspection found windows have been leaking for many years and bricks in the foundation had turned soggy. After discovering that the interior plaster was no longer anchored to the wall, the church closed off the building’s eastern half.

The diocese gave a $2 million estimate for the repairs required to bring the post-and-beam structure up to current safety standards. Mr. Grathwohl called that figure “ridiculous.”

“The church is in a way misleading their parishioners,” he added. “They say the construction is very bad and that’s just not true.”

In addition to Sacred Heart, the parish’s holdings include Our Lady of Mercy primary school immediately to the west of the church, a rectory to the east and both a convent and church hall on the south side of Main Road.

Both Mr. Russell and Mr. Grathwohl said they’d like to discuss possible alternative uses for the church.

“We have a keen interest on keeping Scared Heart a part of Cutchogue,” Mr. Russell said. “We want to help in any way we can.”

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07/18/13 12:12pm
07/18/2013 12:12 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Some of Southold’s oldest structures east of Laurel may soon be added to the state Register of Historic Places.

Southold Town’s Historic Preservation Commission hopes to add some of Southold’s oldest structures to the state Register of Historic Places — and eventually the national register — by extending the Route 25 historic corridor, which currently ends in Laurel, all the way out to Orient.

Richard Wines, chairman of Riverhead Town’s Historic Landmarks Commission, recently suggested the idea to the Southold commission. He recently headed up a similar project for buildings on Route 25 in downtown Riverhead.

For several years Mr. Wines has been working closely with the state’s office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to add six buildings there to the state register.

Mr. Wines said the state also expressed interest in including structures farther east on Route 25, across the Southold Town line. Jim Grathwohl, chairman of Southold’s commission, said he favors the approach and believes the designation will help further preserve the town’s historic treasures and help bolster tourism.

Mr. Grathwohl believes the register should include structures as far east as Orient Point.

“We are very enthused,” he said. “But it’s going to be a lot of work,”

The process begins with a great deal of research, Mr. Wines said. Each site of interest must be evaluated for its cultural or historic significance before the town can submit it for approval by the state. Structures must be at least 50 years old to qualify.

Once adopted into New York’s register, sites are nominated by the state for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, said Mr. Wines.

“It’s been a multi-year process,” he said. “Downtown Riverhead took several years. I’m sure this would be the same.”

Mr. Wines and Mr. Grathwohl agreed that the benefits make the project worth pursuing.

In addition to the honor of the designation itself, locations approved for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places opens the door for tax benefits for those looking to restore the buildings. The certification can also offer protection from federally funded projects, Mr. Wines said. For instance, if a highway were to come through, the federal government would be required to take historic sites into account.

But unlike local historic district regulations, owners of buildings listed only on the national register are not subject to additional restrictions, Mr. Wines said. Only a minimal review would be required should the owner choose to tear down the structure, he said.

Both Mr. Wines and Mr. Grathwohl said they don’t have specific structures in mind to add to the historic register, but there are numerous possibilities.

“There are a whole string of historic homes and barns that would make a great addition to the registry,” Mr. Wines said.

The next step is to present the project to the Southold Town Board, Mr. Grathwohl said.

[email protected]