As Southold Town finalizes its long-awaited comprehensive plan, Orient residents have nearly completed a land use policy of their own.
During the Orient Civic Association’s annual meeting Saturday at Poquatuck Hall, civic president Bob Hanlon gave an update on the “Orient Plan,” which is nearly a year in the making and spearheaded by a working group of more than a dozen volunteers.
While the civic applauds the town’s efforts — such as recently holding public workshops to gain feedback on its tentative land use chapter — Mr. Hanlon said the purpose of the Orient Plan is to identify specific concerns critical to Orient residents and is designed to “complement” the Southold Town Comprehensive Plan — as opposed to hijacking it.
“We would love to speak to every single resident in Orient — that’s not quite possible, but we’re doing the best we can,” he said, adding the Orient Plan working group is in the process of soliciting as much feedback as possible in order to answer the question: “What do you want Orient to be like in 25 years?”
After enough feedback is gathered, Mr. Hanlon said the working group will attempt to poll every Orient resident through such means as hardcopy and electronic mailings.
Although the civic will present all vote tallies to the Town Board for review, the civic will only ask the Town Board to adopt the suggestions into law if there’s overwhelming community support, he said.
As Mr. Hanlon outlined the process, he gave several “theoretical examples” of “propositions” the civic may ask residents to vote on.
Before Mr. Hanlon presented the examples, he stressed they were meant to be “illustrative only” and weren’t the working group’s specific recommendations at this time. Among the policy suggestions he outlined were to limit housing size in order to maintain the community’s rural character and cap commercial activity along Main Road as a way to prevent additional traffic congestion.
After the community is polled and if there’s overwhelming support for the working group’s recommendations, then the civic plans to draft “sample laws” for the Town Board to adopt. One of Mr. Hanlon’s examples included ensuring property owners who have sold their farmland development rights keep the land visible from public roads.
Group member Drianne Benner said that suggestion stems from a trend in the Hamptons where property owners are fencing or planting hedges around protected farmland — which was funded with taxpayer money — to block the public’s view of the land.
“On the South Fork, all of that preserved land is turning over to millionaires who are turning it into a lawn or polo field,” she said. “The good work of the [Peconic Land Trust] has been fabulous, but it could happen here, too.”
Following the Orient Plan presentation, audience members broke out into groups to discuss what they’d like to see addressed in the report.
Some of the suggestions included enhancing a more neighborly atmosphere by including last names on mailboxes. Others said they agreed with the working group’s findings of how the presence of hedges doesn’t fit with the community.
But it was 87-year-old Walter Strohmeyer’s vision that received the longest applause from the audience.
“I don’t think we should be in the mode of ‘change Orient,’ ” he said. “We should stick with what we have. It’s a very special community and we’d like to keep it the way it is.”
The Orient Plan working group welcomes feedback on its outline, which is also available to view in its entirety below.
Photos: (Top) An illustration of potential development for the tiny hamlet of Orient prepared by the Orient Plan working group. Click on map to enlarge. (Credit: Orient Civic Association, courtesy); (Middle left) Orient Civic Association president Bob Hanlon presenting the Orient Plan at Poquatuck Hall on Saturday. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo); (Bottom right) Walter Strohmeyer. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)