Southold comprehensive plan won’t be completed this year

Southolders packed meetings over the winter to offer feedback on the first chapter of the town’s new comprehensive plan, and this month they’ll have two chances to do the same for chapter 2.

The first chapter focuses on economic needs and the second on community character.

The second section was expected to be completed earlier this spring, but the loss two of four town planners to jobs elsewhere, and the overwhelming amount of public input on the first chapter, led the planning department to reconsider the time frame for finishing the overall plan, said Southold planning director Heather Lanza.

Planners hoped to have the report done later this year, but now envision an August 2013 completion.

“Work’s still going on, but we had to slow down somewhat,” said Ms. Lanza. “We had to train new people.”

Town planner trainees Bryan Cummings and Alyxandra Sabatino are quickly getting up to speed in processing applications and assisting with the comprehensive plan, Ms. Lanza said. They were hired in April to replace planners Kristy Winser and Tamara Arzt, who left in early March.

“We’re finding that it takes longer than we thought to gather public input and to have the public participate the way we think they should,” Ms. Lanza added. “This is the first chapter we’re doing in-house, and losing two members hurt. We also thought we had some information on hand, but we didn’t have as much as we thought.”

The next two public sessions are scheduled for Saturday, June 25, at 10 a.m. at the town Human Resource Center on Pacific Street in Mattituck and Thursday, June 30, at 5 p.m. at the town Recreation Center on Peconic Lane in Peconic. The town will accept written comments for two weeks after the meetings.

A copy of the chapter will be available on the town’s website in mid-June.

“After the economic chapter, this is probably the most important for the town,” said Ms. Lanza. “It encompasses what’s great about Southold and how we want to keep it that way … It’s about the big picture: our scenic and cultural resources, quality of life and what’s great about the town.”

Ms. Lanza said some aspects of the community character chapter were gathered from hamlet stakeholder meetings held in each community in Southold over the past several years and some are more general ideas that pertain to the entire town.

The planning department recently finalized its responses to public comments on the economic chapter.

“There was no mention of vocational training for jobs that people do out here,” she said, adding that several people had asked her team to emphasise what the town can do to promote the arts and encourage artists to work here.

She added that portions of another recent planning document, the Mattituck Corridor Study, will likely be included in the completed plan.

Two suggestions in the corridor study — allowing limited retail uses in light industrial zoning areas and easing truck traffic on Factory Avenue — are likely to be taken up by the Town Board this year, before the comprehensive plan is complete.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing July 5 on a parking ban for most of Factory Avenue, and is studying the possibility of allowing manufacturers who work in light industrial zoning areas to sell the products at those locations.

Despite the pushed back completion schedule, Ms. Lanza believes the Town Board will act on some recommendations before the comprehensive plan is finalized.

“I think the Town Board is very proactive,” she said. “They recognize when something needs doing, and they do that time and time again. But it’s really important that the public gets involved and stays involved.”

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