North Fork residents weigh in on comprehensive plan

On the evening of June 30 a handful of Southold residents got their first chance to weigh in on what’s so important about the character of the community they call home.

Town officials took comment on the second chapter of the town’s new comprehensive plan at the town Recreation Center in Peconic.

A second public input session on the chapter is scheduled for Thursday, July 14 at 7 p.m. in the town’s Human Resource Center on Pacific Street in Mattituck.

The draft chapter, available on the town’s website and at local libraries, documents the town’s history and how it shaped the landscape of the town today.

Principal planner Mark Terry told the half-dozen members of the public and several town employees in attendance that the goal expressed in the chapter is to preserve the scenic, cultural and natural heritage of Southold.

“The bucolic quality of the town is anchored by the scenic quality, culture and history of the built environment, landscapes and waterscapes. The importance of preserving these qualities is paramount in maintaining the quality of life within the town,” Town planners wrote in an introduction to the chapter, drafted by Mr. Terry and Planning Board member Don Wilcenski.

The chapter lists the town’s scenic quality, including the vistas along the state-designated scenic byways of Routes 25 and 48, as one of Southold’s most important economic and social assets. Planners would like to hold community meetings to identify and prioritize more scenic resources by 2013, and then develop plans to manage those resources.

The chapter calls for more stringent State Environmental Quality Review of incompatible structures proposed in scenic byways, a 20 percent reduction in hardened shoreline structures and consideration of implementing Suffolk County guidelines for greenhouses on land where the development rights have been sold.

The chapter also calls for more town involvement in the New York State Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Road program and coordination with the county in planting the medians of Route 48 with wildflowers.

The town’s 1,500 regionally important historic buildings are also highlighted in the chapter, which urges that the town give its Historic Preservation Commission more authority to prevent demolition of historic buildings and to delineate new historic districts. It also includes an in-depth assessment of what can be done to strengthen the character of each of the hamlet centers, from tying together the two shopping districts in Mattituck to traffic-calming measures in Cutchogue to ensure that the Southold, East Marion and Orient post offices remain in the hamlet centers.

Members of the public had a range of comments. Nick Deegan, who is running for Town Board on the Democratic ticket, said he believes the town should look into providing incentives for green building practices similar to those in the town of Babylon.

Town Renewable and Alternative Energy Committee chairman Frank Wills suggested that the draft do more to address zoning changes that can protect scenic views.

One group of attendees, who met in a small break-out group with Southold Planning Director Heather Lanza, said that they weren’t sure why the comprehensive planning process was taking so long.

“We wanted to do it once and do it right,” said Mr. Wilcenski as to why the plan, first expected to be finished this year, will now likely not be completed until 2013. “We need to think 20 years ahead. Twenty years ago, no one thought vineyards would be a big part of the North Fork.”

A complete draft of the chapter is available online.

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