Another year, another Southold planning study

The Town Board did what town boards do best this week when they hired a consultant to prepare a planning study. In this case, a review of the Route 25 commercial corridor between the LIRR trestle and Wickham Avenue in Mattituck. Please excuse the cynicism, but as Yogi Berra observed, this is dà jà vu all over again.

The town has a history of paying consultants, sometimes in rather exorbitant amounts, to investigate, study and advise, only to have the documents pile up like old phone books with virtually no change in planning practice or law. It’s not hard to understand why: The only constant in Southold politics is that change will get you booted from office, particularly when dealing with what property owners can and can’t do with their land. That’s likely a leading reason for the ho-hum response, so far, to “Southold 2020,” the town’s ongoing comprehensive plan update.

But Supervisor Scott Russell has taken great pains to point out that the new study isn’t costly, less than $40,000 with $30,000 of that coming through a grant — nor will there be a heavy-handed focus on restricting future commercial activity. He says it’s a matter of finding out what uses make sense, both locally and in the broader context of Mattituck’s position as Southold’s business gateway. New zoning may even add commercial uses currently not permitted, the supervisor says. Given the board’s past handling of always-thorny planning issues, a “yeah, right” response to Mr. Russell’s vows might seem appropriate. But it’s become clear over the years that a liar he is not, so he more than deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Except for denying Mr. Russell’s request for a four-month moratorium, the Town Board is on board. The study, now in the hands of a highly reputable engineering firm, should be completed in the fall, but not before the public gets the chance to review and comment on its progress.

Keep your fingers crossed.