Post World War II-era provision compels Mattituck Park District to act

The Mattituck Park District says it must either sell this parking lot off Pike Street or develop it as parkland. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
The Mattituck Park District says it must either sell this parking lot off Pike Street or develop it as parkland. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

In 1948, the Mattituck Park District, then seven years old, acquired the parking lot that runs south from Pike Street behind the post office on Love Lane.

Now, 66 years later, district officials say they need to sell that lot — and they’re are hoping Southold Town will be the buyer.

If so, it would continue to be used for public parking. 

“This parcel was acquired in 1948 pursuant to a special Park District referendum that approved the expenditure of $2,500 for its acquisition and the sum of $1,000 for the development of a park,” states a district press release issued Friday. “The legislation that created the Park District and New York State law require that the Park District either develop a park on this parcel or divest itself of the parcel.”

So what changed in all those years that means the land can no longer be used for parking? David Prokop, the district’s attorney for the past three years, said he discovered the language requiring that the land either become a park or be sold, and brought it to the commissioners’ attention.

Saying they are not a “parking lot authority,” Mr. Prokop said, “It’s still a parking lot and I need to advise them to either develop parkland or sell the property.”

He added, “Why it wasn’t done before, I can’t speak for that.”

The district was created in 1941 by an act of the state Legislature for the purpose of building parks, not parking lots. But the parcel in question now serves a number of businesses on Love Lane, Pike Street and a portion of Main Road — and officials say they’d like to keep the status quo.

“We are trying to work with the park district to come up with a plan that would ensure that its status as a parking lot remain,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said. “It provides critical municipal parking needs in a bustling hamlet and the town is eager to keep it that way.”

Mr. Russell said that before the town can purchase the lot it will need an appraisal to determine its market value.

“Our first effort is to see if we can work with the commissioners to come to an amicable and mutually beneficial resolution,” Mr. Russell said. “I am quite sure the community would like to very much see it stay as a municipal parking lot.”

Commissioner Gerald Goehringer said the park district had leased the lot to Southold Town for about 30 years, but has not done so for the past four or five years.

“It’s been difficult for us to maintain it, primarily in the winter months,” Mr. Goehringer said. “The [district) board decided that probably the best thing to do would be to sell it.”

But, he said, he is “not terribly in favor of selling it” and still believes it should be leased to the town once again.

“In my opinion, it’s an integral part of the parking system in the town. We have some very active businesses that are doing very well and I’m very happy about that,” Mr. Goehringer said.

The transfer of park district property to the town or anyone else would require that the sale be approved via public referendum, Mr. Prokop said.

Asked whether the district would need to issue a request for proposals seeking offers for the parcel or could just directly deal with the town, Mr. Prokop said, “The idea is to make sure we’re maximizing the value for the taxpayers. It would depend on the price the town offers, relative to our appraisal.”

Mr. Prokop also said he’d have to research the minimum that could be done toward meeting state guidelines for a park, since most parks also have parking lots.

“Everybody in the community is going to want it to stay a parking lot, and it’s just going to be a matter of how to make that work,” Mr. Prokop said. “The park district will do the best it can to try to help the community, but the legal side is, we are not a parking lot authority.”

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