Talk turns to protecting Southold’s ‘character’


After a poorly attended first meeting two weeks ago on Southold’s new comprehensive plan, residents packed a lively second session Thursday night to discuss what’s so special about Southold, and what should be done to keep it that way.

The latest draft chapter addresses Southold’s community character, paying special attention to the town’s scenic vistas and historic, natural and cultural resources.

Residents who turned out Thursday night broke into five discussion groups, each generating a number of suggestions for what more the town could do to preserve its character.

Architect Glynnis Berry, whose group discussed preserving scenic resources and enacting design standards for new buildings, said her group wanted to “not just preserve, but reverse” the loss of scenic areas.

She said that Mattituck, for example, looks much like a strip mall, but the character of the community could be changed to make the hamlet seem more like the village on the edge of the water that it is.

Among the changes her group proposed was narrowing Route 48 to two lanes between the start of the four-lane highway at Cox Neck Lane and Wickham Avenue, providing a safer, more direct conduit for people to walk across Route 48 from Love Lane to the Mattituck Inlet. Her group also suggested adding well-designed parks, with pushcart vendors and a reason for people to meet there, as opposed to parks with Victorian gazebos set in areas where people would not naturally congregate, as is the case with Southold’s Silversmith’s Corner.

Ms. Berry added that her group was opposed to “form-based” codes that provide cookie-cutter templates for communities, when codes should be designed on a street-by-street basis that takes into account the scale and proportion of properties in existing communities.

“Southampton Village has design protocols based on what’s there,” she said. “Every street is different. With a form-based code, it becomes monotonous, like Disneyland.”

The community character chapter also calls for the town’s Landmark Preservation Commission to be given more authority over preserving the town’s cultural resources, including historic buildings and a set of 23 mile markers along Southold’s roads that were placed there during the time Benjamin served as the colonial postmaster.

Commission chairman Jim Grathwohl said he believes the group already does many of the things the plan suggests. He urged town planners to take steps to make Southold a certified local government in a preservation program run by the National Parks Service and the New York State Office of Historic Preservation. If Southold received that designation, he said, the town could go about designating historic structures and would be able to limit how the buildings can be altered. Southold must rely on homeowners to request that their properties be designated as historic landmarks.

Town principal planner Mark Terry’s group discussed managing existing scenic resources. He said a major concern of his group was the debate over the impact greenhouses have on scenic vistas. While the public does not consider them a part of traditional agriculture, which contributes to scenic vistas, greenhouses are becoming more and more necessary for farmers to run competitive businesses.

“Is a greenhouse appropriate or necessary? There’s a huge reactionary discussion. It comes up again and again,” Mr. Terry said.

He said his group also felt it was important that planners take into consideration the views of land as seen from the water.