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Southold officials wary of revived proposal for Main Road historic district

A proposal to designate portions of Main Road in Aquebogue, Jamesport and Laurel as a national historic district has been revived nearly five years after Riverhead’s Landmarks Preservation Commission withdrew a similar application in 2014.

News of the proposal was déjà vu for some town officials, who again fear that Southold residents will be neglected as decisions are made.

“They’ve done absolutely no outreach to the community, the property owners,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, adding that he’s already had several calls from residents who could be affected. “It’s a conversation that did not take place last time.”

Residents of both towns clashed at a community forum in 2014 over the prospect of more government regulation and other consequences that could follow.

Though concerns exist about restrictions on homes located in historic districts, many regulations are imposed only if property owners use tax credits offered.

Mr. Russell questioned the impact of establishing the district.

“I feel the same way [about historic properties]. I want to protect them, but at the same time, this notion that creating this district is going to protect those houses is simply not true,” he said, adding that the mere creation of a district could not stop the demolition of structures located in the district.

The current proposal would affect 354 properties, including 42 in Southold Town.

Richard Wines, chairman of the Riverhead commission, said last month that he has already met with Southold’s Historic Preservation Commission and the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association about the proposed Main Road historic corridor.

“We are still in the early stages of planning for this project,” he said Wednesday. “But yes, if we move forward … the State Historic Preservation Office that runs the program is requiring us to include the part of Laurel in Southold Town. We plan to organize a steering committee with representatives from both towns and will definitely be reaching out to all property owners.”

Mr. Wines estimates that, if the proposal moves forward, it won’t begin until 2020, with a public information meeting around May 2020 and a state Review Board meeting in July.

“I appreciate his effort in discussing it with that board and organization, but nobody’s talking to the residents in Southold Town,” Mr. Russell said. “He owes it to the property owners to reach out to them. I do not think we’re in a position to cooperate with this until that takes place.”

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