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Town to publish Heritage at Cutchogue’s environmental study

Southold Planning Board

The Southold Town Planning Board has accepted and prepared to report on the final environmental review of the controversial Heritage at Cutchogue housing plan.

The board accepted the report — known as a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) — and deemed it as “complete” without discussion by unanimous vote during a special meeting Monday. Planning Board member Pierce Rafferty participated in the meeting via Skype.

Benja Schwartz, a Cutchogue resident who opposes the project, attempted to ask a question after the meeting was adjourned. Planning Board chairman Donald Wilcenski asked him to contact the planning department Tuesday since the board was immediately entering into a work session.

Town planning director Heather Lanza said the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the report.

The Heritage at Cutchogue’s FEIS will be posted on the town’s website and a copy will be available at Cutchogue-New Suffolk Free Library, she said, adding the Planning Board has about a month to review the document.

The Planning Board is expected to file the FEIS to the state Department of Environmental Conservation within the next five days. After that has been completed, the Planning Board will then accept public comment for 14 days, Ms. Lanza said.

Some of the most significant changes to the proposed 55-and-over community housing plan addresses wastewater and irrigation, she said.

Since the Suffolk County Health Department has recently approved alternative wastewater treatment systems, Ms. Lanza said the developer has agreed to use the advanced technology as opposed to installing traditional septic systems.

The Planning Board has held public hearings to discuss the proposal’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Those comments are included in the FEIS, Ms. Lanza said.

During last public hearing, which took place Feb. 22, John Wagner, the developer’s attorney, told the Planning Board that his client had agreed to installing the systems once the county approved them.

While a few residents praised that commitment during the hearing, many people said they still opposed the housing plan because they fear it will ruin their quality of life.

Throughout the town’s review process of the application, residents and environmentalists have maintained they believe the project will harm the environment, negatively affect their day-to-day lives and change the North Fork’s rural character.

Since the last Planning Board hearing, the developer, Jeffrey Rimland, has also agreed to reduce the development’s irrigation use through a water-conserving landscaping plan, Ms. Lanza said.

Development of the nearly 46-acre property on Schoolhouse Road off Main Road in Cutchogue was first proposed in the early 1980s. Currently, 124 housing units are proposed, as well as a clubhouse, outdoor swimming pool and tennis court.

Following a lawsuit Mr. Rimland filed in 2009 claiming the town attempted to hinder the project by changing the property’s zoning, the town agreed in 2014 it wouldn’t change the zoning or allowable uses while the proposal goes through Planning Board evaluation.

The development plan is also undergoing a review by the Suffolk County Planning Commission and Suffolk County Department of Health.

A health department spokesperson said the application hasn’t yet been submitted. Planning commission officials didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking an update on the proposal’s site plan application.

In November, planning commission members said they wanted to hold off on approving the application since the Southold Town Planning Board is currently reviewing the proposal.

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Photo: From left, Planning Board chairperson Donald Wilcenski, vice president James Rich and Martin Sidor at Monday’s meeting. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)