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Civic discusses turning ‘last green corner’ in Mattituck into park

08/07/2019 6:00 AM |

Members of the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association are backing  a proposal to turn what they call the “last green corner” in Mattituck, where a hardware store has been proposed, into a village green by creating a park to preserve the densely wooded lot and open it to public use. 

At its meeting Monday night, the civic association sought feedback on a resolution in support of turning the location at Main Road and New Suffolk Avenue into a park, part of a larger plan to link the area with Mattituck Inlet.

“The goal is to build upon the Love Lane aesthetic, enhance utilization of Southold Town’s and Mattituck Park District’s waterfront property, and establish a safe and inviting pedestrian link between the Inlet and The Last Green Corner,” the resolution reads.

Civic president Charles Gueli said the group’s board had passed a resolution and wanted feedback from members, some of whom expressed concern about the feasibility of obtaining ownership of the wooded property.

The civic association has been working on the proposal for five years.

The resolution also states: “Until vehicular and pedestrian hazards are resolved on Main Road between Bay Avenue and Wickham Avenue, nothing should be done in the heart of Mattituck that increases density and worsens traffic.”

Southold Town Councilman Bill Ruland and Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D–Cutchogue) attended Monday’s meeting.

“The Town Board is fully aware of the wishes of many of the community organizations,” Mr. Ruland said. “There’s no question about that.”

The issue that complicates the MLCA’s request is ongoing litigation between Brinkmann Hardware Corp., which owns the 1.8-acre parcel, and the Town of Southold.

In May, Brinkmann’s sued the town over a six-month moratorium enacted in February that temporarily halted the issuance of approvals and permits for properties between Bay Avenue and Pike Street. The landowner claimed the moratorium was “designed solely to frustrate and delay” his project, a planned 20,000-square-foot hardware store that many MLCA members said they would never patronize.

The town has said the moratorium’s purpose is to allow a traffic study to be conducted to address the area’s “insufficient infrastructure” when it comes to handling increasing traffic.

The property the civic is hoping to see preserved. (Suffolk Times file photo)

Retired Mattituck-Cutchogue school superintendent and MLCA member Anne Smith said that, in accordance with the town’s draft Comprehensive Plan, “the town wants to consider various alternatives to current zoning along the Main Road, as well as improvements to the infrastructure” and recommended land use changes to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the town.

After a public hearing set for Aug. 27, the Town Board will have to decide whether to extend that moratorium, which is set to expire Sept. 6, for another six months. Until then, the MLCA board is pushing to have its remaining voting members — who must be residents of  Mattituck or Laurel hamlet — vote “yes” on the proposed park at their next regular meeting or via their website.

“What the civic association is focusing on,” said MLCA board member John Carter, “is continuing the work we have been doing for the last five years. In other words, preserving the corner and improving the intersection.”

Those in attendance were mostly supportive of the proposal but some were skeptical of the methodology.

“What is the plan?” one woman asked. “We’re going to have to buy the property back from them? How do we get our hands on it? I don’t think we can do it on eminent domain.”

Others worried about the cost of the endeavor: How much would the Brinkmanns want for the land, if they even agreed to sell it? And how could the MLCA, with the county’s help, raise that money?

“Land preservation is voluntary,” Mr. Krupski said. “The last time an offer was made on this parcel, it was a different owner, and the town and the county partnered on the purchase price. Since it’s a hamlet park, the county could provide funding.”

Mr. Krupski said that, if a purchase goes through, the town has volunteered to maintain and develop the land, but that a free-market offer can be made only after the Brinkmann’s sign a letter of intent and appraisals are completed to determine value. The county contribution would come from a quarter-percent of collected sales tax, a portion of which is dedicated to land preservation, he explained. The county had made an offer to BNB Bank to acquire the property that was rejected and the property was subsequently sold to the Brinkmann’s.

Other MLCA members said the community should pressure the town into changing the property’s zoning, which is currently designated “Hamlet Business.”

“There is good reason for following the blueprint of the Comprehensive Plan,” Mr. Ruland said. “When we talk about any parcel anywhere in the town that’s zoned one thing and someone wants something else, if you unilaterally do that, the courts have ruled that that’s spot zoning and you’ve now put yourself in a worse predicament than before.”

Top Caption: Board member John Carter speaks at Monday’s Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association meeting. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)

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