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Planning Board continues discussion on proposed subdivision in Orient

As a plan to subdivide 112 acres in Orient inches forward, the Southold Town Planning Board is taking steps to mitigate impacts on “cultural resources” following the discovery of historic artifacts on the property.

Members of the Tuthill family own two properties, known as North and South Dyer, just east of Latham’s farm stand, and another two, known as North and South Brown, about two miles east.

They are seeking a conjoined conservation subdivision that would preserve 94 acres and split the remaining 18 into 17 residential lots.

During a work session Monday, officials reviewed comments received from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, as well as the Unkechaug and Shinnecock Indian Nations in response to the proposal. Their feedback, along with additional mitigation measures recommended by town planning staff, will be considered as the Planning Board prepares to issue its Final Environmental Impact Statement required as part of a mandatory environmental review.

Tim Lloyd, an archaeologist with the NYS OPRHP, sent a letter to the Planning Board in July that states the office has no concerns regarding impacts to the Orient Historic District if the open space area along the Main Road, on the North Dyer parcel, remains undeveloped.

If development is proposed, he recommended the applicants consult OPRHP, according to town planner Mark Terry.

Officials from OPRHP also recommended that site plans and elevations be submitted to their office for review and approval if construction is proposed for the South Dyer parcel.

Planning staff also recommended that future building plans be reviewed by the Southold Historic Preservation Commission.

Last month, Planning Board members and department staff were joined by members of the Unkechaug and Shinnecock tribal nations and Tuthill family members for a site visit at the North and South Brown properties.

During the visit, locations that may require further archaeological investigations were flagged, including a potential burial site on the North Brown property and an area where artifacts such as arrowheads were found on the South Brown parcel.

Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Indian Nation recommends that no digging or excavation take place in those locations until further, minimally invasive testing by Tracker Archaeology Services Inc. is completed.

Planning staff could also require what’s known as a Phase 1B cultural survey be completed within the areas recently flagged.

Due to the area identified as a possible burial site, Mr. Terry also suggested that a proposed access road be moved from the east side of the property to the west side, which could require consolidation of curb cuts and an agreement with an adjacent landowner.

They also recommend a Phase II investigation be completed on the South Brown property, which a 2011 investigation revealed was the site of a five-acre Native American village that existed about 600 years before European settlement.

That investigation would include a deeper dig to evaluate the site for possible listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Agricultural operations currently conducted in open space areas on both properties would be excluded from those conditions, officials noted.

During the work session, Lyle Tuthill asked if they could delay those investigations until development plans are on the horizon.

“We want to hold off on [the investigations] until we’re closer to development,” he said, adding that they would like to continue moving through the subdivision process before residential development is proposed.

The applicants did note that several other mitigation guidelines presented, including reducing impacts to water quality and wildlife habitats of protected species, were reasonable.

According to Mr. Terry, the Planning Board will continue to discuss mitigation steps outlined and is aiming to accept the FEIS in September.

“The premise of this is that it’s an 80-60 conservation subdivision,” he said. “A lot of the potential impacts have been mitigated through that proposal, as it meets the town’s comprehensive plan goals as they stand now.”

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