Economic development pushed under new Southold comprehensive plan

Residents are getting a sneak peek this week at the first chapter of Southold Town’s new comprehensive plan update, which focuses on sustainable economic development.

The draft chapter is available on the town’s website, and two public meetings are scheduled for the upcoming weeks for community members to discuss and help shape the final draft.

The chapter opens with the sobering recent statistic that as many as 9.8 percent of Southold residents are unemployed, slightly more than the recent national average of 9.4 percent. It says the key to keeping local jobs is to build on existing industries, such as agriculture, aquaculture, tourism, health care and the maritime trade, and to expand opportunities for growth in renewable energy.

The chapter also encourages the creation of a town-sponsored business and entrepreneurship center and a business retention and expansion program, as well as coordination with county agencies and educational institutions that offer training in 21st-century jobs.

A new economic development committee, which would be made up of members of business groups and owners, plus school officials and students, would oversee the changes envisioned in the plan.

The plan also calls for the creation of tax and zoning incentives for businesses to locate in existing hamlet centers, using existing buildings if possible, and for the town to vigorously appeal the recently enacted MTA tax, which it says does not directly benefit Southold’s businesses.

The first meeting will be held this Saturday, Jan. 22, at 10 a.m. at the East Marion firehouse, and the second will be held on Monday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. at the Southold Town Recreation Center on Peconic Lane.

Town planning director Heather Lanza said during Tuesday’s Town Board work session that the meetings will consist of a presentation by town planners and consultant Nelson Pope & Voorhis, which drafted the document, followed by group discussions on what should be included in the final draft.

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