Scott Russell on Plum Island houses: No way

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | No large-scale residential project will ever take place on Plum Island, Supervisor Scott Russell said this week.

The U.S. General Services Administration thinks the best future use of Plum Island, currently a federal animal disease research facility, is to sell it for the development of up to 500 dwellings.

But Southold Supervisor Scott Russell doesn’t see it that way.

“There will not be 500 houses on Plum Island,”  he said this week. “There will not be 5 houses on Plum Island.”

The town is in the process of backing up that statement by crafting new island-specific zoning that would prohibit large-scale residential development should the federal government move ahead with the construction of a $1 billion replacement laboratory in Manhattan, Kansas and sell the 840-acre island as surplus.

Under that scenario, any housing built on the island “would need to be accessory to, and in support of, the research facility and the permitted uses of that site as clearly specified in our proposed zoning. The GSA and any prospective buyer would need to understand that fact.”

The GSA’s recommendation is part of the environmental impact statement on the suggested sale of the island. But that report, the supervisor said, “fails to consider the fact that, ultimately, the decision rests with the Town of Southold under its zoning authority.”

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 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.”

The proposed zoning regulations would divide Plum Island into three districts separating the lab areas from a conservation district and a smaller section covering the harbor and ferry facilities.

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