Developer ditches Matittuck affordable housing plan for retail and apartments

The site of a proposed business center on Route 25 in Mattituck  (Credit: Cyndi Murray, file)
The site of a proposed business center on Route 25 in Mattituck (Credit: Cyndi Murray, file)

A plan to build a 75-unit affordable housing complex on a wooded 20-acre property across from the Capital One office building in Mattituck will not go forward.

Mattituck developer Paul Pawlowski has scrapped his idea to build North Fork Cottages and instead plans to construct commercial buildings on the property that would contain accessory apartments.

Mr. Pawlowski said Friday he hopes to create a campus-style retail center on the three acres closest to the Main Road. The business center, he said, would contain four or five detached commercial storefronts that would each have second floor accessory apartments.

Though he has not submitted a formal site plan with the town Mr. Pawlowski said he envisions the development would be similar to Feather Hill in Southold.

Mr. Pawlowski plans to donate the remainder of the property — roughly 17 acres — to the town for land preservation.

Mr. Pawlowski, a lifelong Southold Town resident who owns Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue, said his new idea is a the second-best use for the property, saying his original plan lacked support from the Town Board and the public.

“There was negative feedback from the town and the people that live in town, so, we came up with another option,” Mr. Pawlowski said. “Hearing all the concerns, such as clearing too much property, I thought the next best thing for the property and for the town was to preserve 17-acres and build out the rest of the property for business.”

One problem residents raised when the project was first introduced in October, is that stretch of Mattituck has already seen much more development than other hamlet centers in Southold Town.

Within a quarter-mile of the site there is a 7-Eleven and a CVS. The last affordable housing community was built right down the road, and there is uncertainty about what will come of the now-vacant Capital One building.

Additionally residents feared the complex could burden the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District.

The newly formed Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association had identified the original proposal as a top priority for the group to take under advisement.

The organization’s founder, Mary Eisenstein, said Thursday that members had not yet formulated a stance on the new project.

One sticking point for Mr. Pawlowski was creating accessory apartments to help solve Southold Town’s housing shortage. Unlike the original plan, the three or four apartments included in the new proposal would not be built to meet Suffolk County’s affordable housing standards.

However, Mr. Pawlowski said the rent would be kept reasonable.

“The town has an issue with people living in illegal apartments, whether they are in basements or above garages, but because of the price-point they have no choice,” he said. “Architecturally speaking [the proposed apartments] would be built in a way where you’d never know there are apartments up there.”

Supervisor Scott Russell stressed during his State of the Town address Thursday night that affordable rentals are the key to solving the affordable housing crisis.

And while he called the withdrawn proposal for 75 apartment units  “far-fetched,” he said it’s the type of new construction the town should be exploring.

“Seventy-five apartment units in one hamlet was probably too many to absorb at one time,” he said. “But I do think we need to understand that concept was an excellent one for Southold Town. Affordable apartments are going to solve the problem.”

Mr. Russell declined to comment on Mr. Pawlowski’s pending application.

Housing Advisory Commission member Michael Herbert said he was saddened to see the idea for the affordable housing complex withdrawn, adding that just a handful of new apartments would have little impact on fixing the problem.

“[Mr. Pawlowski] didn’t want to create controversy in the community, but if his intention was to assist in developing affordable housing for Town of Southold residents, I don’t understand the objections,” he said. “Adding only a few apartments has no impact.

“We need a residential complex to service the community.”

Mr. Pawlowski is currently seeking a zoning change for the new project. In order for the development to move forward, the Town Board would need to approve a land use change in order for commercial businesses to be used on the 3.8 acres.

Currently, the entire 20-acre property is limited to only residential buildings.

“If the zoning change is approved, I would work closely with the Planning Board to ensure that the development is keeping with the character of Southold Town and improves the look of the area entering Mattituck,” Mr. Pawlowski states in his Feb. 10 zone change application.

The Planning Board is reviewing the zone change application and is expected to submit its recommendations to the Town Board within the next few weeks, town officials said.

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