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With 2020 deadline in mind, one chapter left in Southold’s comprehensive plan

To stay on track toward completion of Southold Town’s Comprehensive Plan by 2020, the planning department is asking for some help to get a chapter on transportation and infrastructure done. 

Sticking to that timeline is essential to retaining grant funding, which has been extended through this year to expire in 2020, town planning director Heather Lanza noted at Tuesday’s Town Board work session. The grant funding has helped to minimize the town’s out-of-pocket costs in developing the comprehensive plan, Ms. Lanza said.

Councilman Bob Ghosio said it’s no secret that the questions about the plan arose frequently during the last election cycle, including why it remains unfinished.

Ten chapters have been completed since 2010. The land use chapter, which was finished early in 2017, took about two years, longer than any of the others, in part because it included two rounds of meetings with residents of each hamlet. Each hamlet has its own section in that chapter, Ms. Lanza noted.

Planning Board member Jim Rich said it also took a long time because “we were walking a very fine line or narrow path between making specific suggestions and generalities so we were careful not to step on the Town Board’s toes and not to create issues that were going to come back to derail the whole project.”

Ms. Lanza said that although the goal was to have a draft of the transportation and infrastructure chapter completed by now, multiple challenges have arisen, including staffing changes and the intense workload created for the Planning Board by the Heritage at Cutchogue project, she said.

Mr. Ghosio noted that the comprehensive plan isn’t the “end all” to how the town will look in 20 years.

“I want to make it somewhat clear that Southold as a town is what it is today because we are all in the process of thinking about where we want the town to be, whether or not it’s officially in a document or it’s not. It still is what it is,” Mr. Ghosio said.

The town has been functioning without a single comprehensive plan since the 1980s, Ms. Lanza said.

“We’ve been using this as we go along,” Councilman Jim Dinizio said of the completed chapters. Town government liaison Denis Noncarrow said, for example, that the downtown revitalization grant the town received for Pike Street parking might not have been obtained without the ability to refer to language contained in one of the completed chapters.

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