Feds suggest selling Plum Island to a private party

Sell Plum Island to a private party.

That is the final federal recommendation from the U.S. General Service Administration, which is handling the sale of the  federally owned island.

The conclusion is based on the results of an environmental impact study released Tuesday that stated the sale would not negatively impact the environment.

The study outlines three development options. From Southold Town’s and environmentalists’ perspective, the most objectionable would be to sell the land to private investors for the construction of up to 500 homes.

The town is working on zoning to prevent any residential or commercial development on the 840-acre island just off the tip of Orient Point.

The other two options mentioned in the EIS are for a buyer to convert the island’s animal disease research lab into a private research or business center or to use the land as a nature preserve.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said he supports the island’s conservation and plans to introduce a bill to eliminate the requirement in current law that Plum Island be sold as part of an effort to raise funds for a new $1 billion facility in Manhattan, Kansas.

“I join Southold Town and its residents and other stakeholders in strongly opposing the sale of Plum Island,” Mr. Bishop said in a statement. “The final Plum Island environmental impact statement shows that the island’s unique natural and historic resources are ideally suited for adaptive re-use of the current facility for research and preservation of the undeveloped areas, which has already been identified in Southold Town’s proposed zoning code as the community’s preference if the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center is eventually closed.”

Since the island is federally owned it is not currently subject to local planning regulations. Southold began working on island-specific zoning regulations as a precautionary measure to prevent the construction of condos, “McMansions” or even a casino if the island is sold.

The proposed zoning regulations would divide Plum Island into three districts.

The Plum Island Research District would encompass the existing lab and surrounding 175 acres. About 600 undeveloped acres would be covered by the Plum Island Conservation District, and a Marine District would encompass the existing ferry facilities.

The Save the Sound organization called the final federal impact statement “fundamentally flawed.”

The GSA “has failed to adequately address concerns raised by the public after the draft environmental impact study was released and dismissed the data and information about conservation alternatives,” said Leah Schmalz, the group’s director of legislative and legal affairs. “The GSA has chosen to ignore those interests and to focus solely on putting Plum Island’s natural resources on the auction block.”

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