For nearly half a century, Southold’s old Town Hall has sat quietly nestled between the Southold Free Library’s back entrance and the UPS store on Traveler Street. But it may be on the move soon.
The little yellow building originally occupied the site where Town Hall sits now. In its current location, it was owned by someone who claimed ties to an Alaskan Native American tribe who hoped to use it as a casino before the library purchased it in 2006 as part of a long-range expansion plan.
Since last year’s expansion bond vote failed, the library has considered its options for the property’s use. Among them is giving the house to the Southold Historical Society.
“The library board is trying to address some of its immediate parking needs,” said library director Caroline MacArthur. “Step one is coming up with a really good plan for that building that would be best for the community and the library.”
The historical society asked the Town Board this week if the town would consider selling a piece of land between the Town Hall’s rear parking lot and Academy Printing “for a reasonable price” to relocate the yellow house there. But board members appeared skeptical.
“If we were to sell it, we would have to sell it for fair market value,” Supervisor Scott Russell said at Tuesday morning’s work session. “To be candid, I don’t think the historical society would be able to purchase it for fair market value.”
Town Attorney Martin Finnegan added that the town is not only legally obligated to sell only at fair market value, but the sale would also be subject to a permissive referendum if voters put together enough petition signatures to force a vote.
“I don’t think it would be prudent to sell infrastructure,” agreed Councilman Bill Ruland. “But I would be willing to consider a long-term lease.
The board agreed to discuss the matter further with the historical society.
TIRE STORE WAS OVER LINE
Southold Town is considering a zoning change for Eastern Tire, an auto repair shop at the corner of Eugenes Road and Route 25 in Cutchogue. Town Board members said the shop was apparently built decades ago on top of the property line that divides two properties, one zoned commercial and one residential.
“This is someone who came in and got a building permit and approval for a structure that overlapped into a residential zone,” said Mr. Russell Tuesday. “We need to see if we need to take corrective action to conform the building to zoning.”
Mr. Russell said that while the town does not often consider zoning change requests, in this case it could require more buffering between Eastern Tire and the neighboring residential properties as a condition of the change.
“Usually, when we get a change of zone request, we dismiss it out of hand,” the supervisor said. “I have a situation where we have to get someone in compliance with the town code. I get a lot of complaints. I think there’s going to be a change of ownership soon, and I think the new owner will provide a buffer for the rest of the neighborhood. I’m willing to look at the history here.”
After Southold declined to participate in East Hampton’s helicopter advisory committee earlier this year, Southold’s helicopter expert, pilot Joe Fischetti, went looking for friends along Long Island’s North Shore, who have long endured noise from helicopters en route to airports on the South Fork.
He found support from Glen Cove to North Hempstead to Brookhaven and Riverhead for a proposal that would divert some helicopter traffic to the South Shore.
Mr. Fischetti asked Town Board members Tuesday to sign on to a letter to the FAA on behalf of the North Shore towns asking for technical information about the possibility of routing traffic from the downtown Manhattan heliport along the South Shore.
Helicopter traffic from midtown Manhattan heliports and Teterboro and Westchester airports would still travel the northern route.
“The South Shore route needs to be recommended as a primary route. That will significantly reduce the number and frequency of helicopter noise events,” Mr. Fischetti told the Town Board.
Board members wholeheartedly agreed to sign the letter, and urged North Fork residents to continue calling in complaints about helicopter noise to 1-800-319-7410.
HELP FOR FARMERS
In his annual report to the Town Board Tuesday morning, agricultural advisory committee chairman Chris Baiz urged the town to re-examine sections of its code that limit farming.
“You’re looking at the last generation of farmers that didn’t have to pay $100,000 an acre for farmland,” he said.
He estimated that, at that price, farmers are paying $2.50 per square foot of farmland and earning just 10 cents per square foot each growing season.
He urged the town to reconsider restrictions on greenhouses, clean up code sections that contain conflicting definitions of what a farm stand is, do more to encourage wind power and consider allowing farm stands on properties where the development rights have been sold.
Mr. Baiz added that he has been informed by an attorney that the town has the power to change the deeds of properties that have already excluded farm stands in a covenant at the time the development rights were sold.
“Today’s future farmers are going to come in with college degrees and MBAs in order to run the farm,” he said. “They’re not going to look at a situation where they pay $2.50 a square foot and possibly get pennies per square foot of pretax earnings.”
The Town Board enthusiastically supported many of his proposals and agreed to discuss the matter further.
TERRY FARM PRESERVED
The Town Board unanimously and enthusiastically agreed Tuesday evening to buy the development rights of 33 acres of the Terry Farm on Route 25 in Orient for $86,000 per buildable acre.
The property is owned by the Frederick and Ethel Terry Revocable Trust.
“Thank you to the Terry family,” said Mr. Russell, adding that the town has had its eye on the property for preservation for quite some time.
“It’s nice to know the Terry Farm is going to stay the Terry Farm,” he said.