Guest Column: The impact a civic association can have

I was raised in Mastic, a once-quiet community blindsided by out-of-control growth, absentee landlords, haphazard building, sprawling unrestricted signage and other forecasters of decline. My friends and relatives still living there have picturesque houses and properties, with boats docked in inlets or along the Forge River. The boat club on the river was a perfect setting for our reception when my husband and I were married 40 years ago.

Regulations may be in place today that attempt to rectify missed opportunities of the past in Mastic, but many things are impossible to undo.

After four decades living in Southold Town, I take none of its beauty for granted. Like many of us, I’d like to see our town remain as beautiful as it is today for generations to come. That’s one reason I joined the newly formed Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association.

At the April meeting, I met a developer who is looking to build a mix of retail and rental apartments on Main Road in Mattituck. I considered suggesting: “Go west, young man.” It’s not the person I’d want to send away — it’s the development.

He was a friendly young man, likeable and generous with his time, thoroughly answering many questions about his proposed retail and rental development project, which would be located on the south side of Main Road just west of Sigsbee Road.

He seemed honest and genuine. Our town is his town. He told us he values it, as we do. I believe him. Still, I’m convinced we need to be clear about what’s coming and to be vigilant about irreversible changes, even when the developers are nice guys.

In May, the civic association had two guest speakers. Southold Town land preservation coordinator Melissa Spiro gave us some insight into the factors used to determine if a parcel of land should be purchased by the town for preservation. Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski spoke on a variety of topics, giving every question he was asked a thoughtful, informed response. While he complimented us on the turnout at the meeting, we look forward to more Mattituck-Laurel residents joining us.

Recently I was at the Laurel post office handing out fliers about the new organization. Some of the issues it’s paying attention to include two proposals for development: the one on the south side of Main Road at the entrance to Mattituck and another on Pike Street. Other items the civic has been discussing include proposals for reconfiguring Old Sound Avenue and short-term rental regulations.

On the porch of the Laurel post office, I spoke with one nice person after another. I heard concerns about growth, property values, being able to afford to live here in senior years and more.

I hope Southold Town always has smart people managing its inevitable growth. I hope it always has heart, too, planning for our residents who need affordable housing. I wish we could offer our young and active residents more bike trails and other recreational activities. I hope fisherman can always make a living in our waterways. And I never want to see another strip mall built here.

It’s tempting to groan about the influx of North Fork visitors clogging our scenic roadways, but I’d rather smile at the thought that I’m living in a place others find desirable for a day, week or summer visit.

For hundreds of years, civic associations have been venues for addressing quality-of-life issues without politics. It’s a beautiful thing and something we’re grateful to now have in the Mattituck-Laurel community.

The author is a member of the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association. She lives in Laurel.