It’s no secret a developer is looking to build on 21 acres he owns on the south side of Main Road just west of Sigsbee Road in Mattituck.
Under current zoning, he has the right to build about eight single-family homes on the property. Last fall, he proposed the construction of a 75-unit affordable rental housing complex but scratched those plans after the project failed to muster enough support at Southold Town Hall and from the community.
Now the developer is seeking a change of zone to develop about 3.5 acres of the property with a mix of retail and rental housing. Five individual structures would be built as part of the “campus-style” development, with five businesses operating there, he said. Twelve residential apartments would be built above retail shops. The apartments would be rented at the county’s affordable housing rate.
The remaining 17.5 acres would be donated to the town as open space, with the developer pledging to pay for the maintenance and also offering to construct an open-air pavilion on the town portion of the property.
While the proposal is sure to receive intense scrutiny in the coming months — as it already has from Southold Town, the newly formed Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association and local environmentalists — this newspaper believes it is the better of the two current options.
Of course, keeping the entire parcel as open space would be the preference of most residents, but that does not appear to be a realistic option because the owner has said he would go through with the construction of single-family homes if he doesn’t get the requested zoning change.
Southold Town has more need for affordable rental units than it does for more single-family homes -— particularly for ones that price out seniors and young working adults while likely adding more children to the local school district than a dozen apartments would.
Retail construction at the front of the property would also be consistent with the surrounding area, where the development would count McDonald’s, CVS, 7-Eleven, a boat sales retailer and a former bank headquarters among its neighbors.
The Southold Town Board and its Planning Board have already made clear that a convenience store or gas station would not be built on the property, and the developer will be required to keep the rental housing affordable in perpetuity.
The public should take advantage of the upcoming opportunities to weigh in on the site plan and to have its say in determining how best to use the open space portion of the property. And the town needs to continue doing its part to make sure public concern is taken into consideration before granting approvals.
But with the facts as they are now, allowing the developer to move ahead with the project he is currently proposing appears to be the better option for the community.