A six-month temporary building moratorium in Mattituck, first enacted in February, was extended Tuesday night by the Southold Town Board for an additional six months.
The extension drew support at a public hearing, and members of the Brinkmann family, who filed suit against the town in response, vowed they “are not going away.”
The Brinkmanns own a 1.8-acre parcel at the corner of Main Road and New Suffolk Avenue where they have proposed a 20,000-square-foot hardware store.
“We studied the Southold Town building code and looked for an available property that could be purchased and developed in compliance with that code,” said Ben Brinkmann, one of the owners.
The family made a legally binding $700,000 deal with BNB Bank in 2016 and invested an additional quarter-million dollars in development costs, Mr. Brinkmann said.
“Any interested party, including Southold Town could have done the same … There is misconception that the code only allows 6,000 square feet of building to be built on our property and that my family is looking to grossly exceed what the code allows. We, the Brinkmanns, are not seeking a zoning change, we are not seeking a variance, we are not seeking a parking relaxation, we are not seeking a green space waiver. All we need is a special exception from the Planning Board.” The Brinkmanns said in a comment Wednesday that with conditions met, a special exemption is their right, adding that they intend to meet all conditions.
Brinkmann Hardware Corp. currently has stores in Sayville, Blue Point, Holbrook and Miller Place and also operates VanKemenade Paint in Jamesport. They first submitted an application for the Mattituck property in 2017.
The moratorium was designed to give the town time to consider recommendations from ongoing traffic and parking studies, while halting the issuance of approvals and permits at the Route 25/Love Lane intersection.
Residents expressed concern about traffic in the area at the public hearing.
“I’m surprised no one’s been killed there,” said Anne Murray, president of the East Marion Community Association.
Lynn Summers, who has lived in Mattituck for 40 years, said the area has been problematic for a long time, and that now, more than ever before, “we’re at a critical mass.”
Benja Schwartz of Cutchogue said he often seeks out alternate routes to avoid the busy area, where roundabouts and other safety measures have been proposed over the years.
“I’m surprised that people would purchase a property … and they think their right to use their property supersedes the rights of the entire community to use the proper infrastructure: transportation, roads, et cetera,” he said.
The Brinkmanns say the moratorium was enacted specifically to target them. Co-owner Hank Brinkmann addressed the town early on, asking a series of questions that Supervisor Scott Russell declined to comment on due to ongoing litigation. The Brinkmanns sued the town in June, arguing that the moratorium was “designed solely to frustrate and delay” their project.
“What ongoing traffic studies are underway? Who is conducting these studies?” he asked. “When are these studied anticipated to be completed? These are legitimate questions and these questions should be answered before the moratorium is voted on.”
Hank Brinkmann also asked what other studies the town has performed since the moratorium was first enacted, whether any final reports from that can be made available for public review and whether the proposed improvements will affect the area’s zoning.
“What properties, other than the one located at 12500 Main Road in Mattituck, have had applications that the town has refused to process or permits that the town has refused to issue because of this moratorium?” Mr. Brinkmann asked.
Ben Brinkmann added during Tuesday’s hearing that building moratoriums are typically imposed townwide, yet this one “has been imposed on a one-mile stretch of road with my family’s property right in the middle of it.”
“Make no mistake about it,” he said, “this moratorium has been targeted directly at my family and our business. I believe the town hopes that by enacting this moratorium and pursuing delaying tactics that [me] and my family will fold up, pick up and go away. We are not going away; we are in this for the long haul. This is not about opinions, this is not about a hardware store, this is not about a park. This is about private property rights, priniciples and the rule of law.”
In a comment after the hearing, Hank Brinkmann said the family’s motivation in speaking Tuesday night was “to have our side be heard. Not only has it not been heard, it’s also been misrepresented.”
Ben Brinkmann said he and his family aren’t arguing that there isn’t a traffic problem or that it shouldn’t be addressed.
“We obviously didn’t cause them, as we’re not there yet. What we did was buy a piece of property, zoned by Southold Town to do exactly what we’re looking to do with it. We have every right to do it and to stand in our way based on an existing traffic problem that we had nothing to do with is wrong … We’ve heard the board themselves say this is an ongoing issue. They’ve had years and years to address this issue. They’ve had years and years to do studies. Address the issue; the issue is traffic. I agree. Address it. It doesn’t mean you strip people of their property rights.”