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Southold moves to exercise power of eminent domain against Brinkmanns

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The Southold Town Board has moved to exercise the power of eminent domain against the Brinkmann property in Mattituck in an effort to stop the construction of a hardware store on the corner of Main Road and New Suffolk Avenue. 

The board’s 5-1 vote on Tuesday comes after numerous public hearings, civic meetings, negotiations and outcries against the Brinkmann family’s efforts to transform that corner in the heart of the Mattituck business district.

The board’s bold move to exercise its legal authority is meant to prevent the construction of a 20,000 square-foot hardware store on a 1.8-acre parcel where many hamlet and town residents envision a community park. The Brinkmann family could not be immediately reached for comment.

The move comes two weeks after a public hearing was held on a resolution that proposed extending the six-month building moratorium already in effect. The moratorium, originally enacted in February, was set to expire this month, but the board unanimously agreed to extend it another six months. That decision affords the town more 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.

“The Town has made several attempts to acquire the Brinkmann property for use as a park,” said Town Attorney Bill Duffy in an email Tuesday night. “We had agreed to partner with the county when their offer [to preserve the land] was rejected. We also made formal and informal attempts to acquire the property voluntarily. We are still hopeful the owners will sell the property voluntarily, but if not, the Town Board tonight authorized us to begin to take the necessary steps to acquire the property through eminent domain.”

If the board does formally pursue eminent domain, initial steps will include getting an appraisal and running a title report. Then, a public hearing will be scheduled and held to determine the property’s public purpose.

“Once that happens, then it’s really about what the purchase price is going to be, how much we have to give them,” Mr. Duffy said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “After we establish the public purpose … then we get a petition to court and we file a condemnation map and description of the property, and it’s really the town’s property at that point.”

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.

At an Aug. 27 public hearing on the moratorium extension, a number of concerned North Fork residents spoke out about traffic conditions at the intersections of New Suffolk Avenue, the Main Road and Love Lane, urging the board to grant the extension and maintain the halt on construction and the granting of permits. The Brinkmanns characterized the moratorium as an effort “designed solely to frustrate and delay” their project and they have filed suit against the town to overturn it.

Mr. Duffy said the moratorium has always been about more than just the Brinkmann property.

“There is still room to negotiate up to a certain point,” he said, clarifying that “once we get an appraisal, we’re kind of locked into that price.” Referring to it as the “battle of appraisals,” he expressed confidence in the eminent domain undertaking and optimism for the park idea.

“For years, there has been great interest from the local community for a park/village green near the Love Lane area in Mattituck and previous studies have identified this property as a possible park location,” he said.

The board approved the resolution by a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Jim Dinizio casting the lone no vote. He said in an interview he felt he did not have enough information.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell declined comment, citing pending litigation.

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