Zoning and environmental experts gave presentations about how land use policies affect Southold Town at the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association’s meeting Wednesday night.
But, instead, some people in the audience just wanted to talk about the retail and affordable apartment project proposed for the wooded area across the street from the vacant Capital One building on Main Road.
During the meeting at the American Legion Hall in Mattituck, about 60 people listened to presentations by town planning director Heather Lanza, ZBA chairperson Leslie Weisman, and North Fork Environmental Council president Bill Toedter.
Ms. Lanza gave an overview of Mattituck and Laurel’s current zoning and explained how to read zoning maps, which are available on the town’s website.
Ms. Weisman explained how the ZBA functions and Mr. Toedter talked about how his group reviews the environmental impact on development plans. He also said there’s a need to replace aging septic systems with community wastewater treatment systems that could produce highly treated effluent for irrigation in order to enhance water quality while reducing fertilizer usage.
When audience members were allowed to ask questions, resident Cathy Simicich expressed her concerns over developer Paul Pawlowski’s proposal to build affordable apartments over retails stores in Mattituck.
“I would rather see houses than rental apartments,” she said, adding she’s in favor of a design like The Cottages at Mattituck, which is an affordable housing complex also located on Main Road in Mattituck.
As another resident started to ask questions about Mr. Pawlowski’s development plan, Ms. Lanza said she isn’t able to talk about the proposal since it’s currently an open application.
Then a few residents started to indirectly question and comment on the proposal, which mostly focused on the affordable housing component to the project.
Town principal planner Mark Terry, who attended the meeting with Ms. Lanza, said affordable housing is the top concern he’s heard from residents across the town.
“People have voiced concerns about where their sons and daughters are going to live,” he said. “We know we have a problem. [Affordable housing] has to go somewhere.”
When asked by a reporter for comment, Mr. Pawlowski, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said he was pleased with how the meeting went and said he believed it was more about zoning and not specifically about his proposal.
“It was a good opportunity for people to learn about zoning,” he said. “I’m asking for a zoning change that’s conforming to exactly what’s in the corridor, so it was good to see the colored maps.”
Mr. Pawlowski, a lifelong Southold Town resident and the owner of Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue, is seeking a change of zone to proceed with development plans for the 21-acre parcel.
The property’s current residential zoning allows for the development of multiple single-family homes there.
He’s proposing to develop 3.5 aces and donate the remaining 17.5 acres to the town in order to preserve about 85 percent of the land. The “Campus Style” development includes five individual structures totaling 14,000 square feet with 12 apartments above retails stores. An outdoor pavilion open to the public is also included.
At a joint meeting June 16 between Southold’s Town Board and Planning Board, the consensus was that Mr. Pawlowski should move forward with his plans to seek a change of zone from residential to a general business zoning. Town officials agreed the change of zone process would initiate a public hearing, affording the town the opportunity to hear from residents on what they would like to see built there.
Civic president Mary Eisenstein said the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to provide residents with information about zoning and environmental policies in order to piggyback on an April civic meeting where Mr. Pawlowski gave a presentation about his plan.
“Considering that, which we knew in advance, that Heather, Mark and Leslie couldn’t speak to the specifics, it was a great followup to the meeting with Paul,” she said. “It gave people richer information and to learn firsthand from the planning board, the zoning board and an environmentalist, so people can better make a decision that’s not based on rumors.”
The civic has scheduled a July 29 work session to discuss the pros and cons of the project and draft its recommendation about the proposal to the town.