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Public hearing set for Aug. 11 on town’s eminent domain pursuit of Mattituck property

Should Southold Town use eminent domain to stop construction of a hardware store at the corner of Main Road and New Suffolk Avenue in Mattituck?

Under state law, the Town Board must hold a hearing on the proposed acquisition, giving the public a chance to weigh in on the proposal. The Town Board voted Tuesday 5-0 to set the hearing for Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. Councilman Jim Dinizio was absent.

Last September, the Town Board voted 5-1 to begin eminent domain proceedings on the 1.8-acre parcel currently owned by the Brinkmann family. At the time, Mr. Dinizio voted against the measure, citing a lack of information.

According to Town Attorney Bill Duffy, the Brinkmanns rejected the town’s offer of $775,000 to purchase the property. The town’s vision was to use the parcel as a community park.

The Brinkmann family has proposed a 20,000-square-foot hardware store for the property, a project currently thwarted by a building moratorium in place along Main Road in Mattituck.

Town officials say the moratorium was put in place to allow for ongoing traffic and parking studies to be completed. After a public hearing Tuesday, the Town Board voted 4-1 to extend the moratorium, which was first enacted in February 2019, for another six months.

Councilwoman Sarah Nappa cast the lone no vote. 

“At this point, I don’t see this as temporary anymore,” she said. “And it inconveniences other surrounding businesses.”

Mattituck Laurel Civic Association president Anne Smith spoke in favor of the moratorium on behalf of the organization, arguing that nothing should be done to increase density or traffic in the area until a pending traffic study is completed.

In a letter read aloud by Town Supervisor Scott Russell, Hank and Ben Brinkmann pushed back against the moratorium, adding that the “temporary” moratorium has now morphed into an “indefinite obstacle.”

They sued the town last year, claiming the moratorium was designed solely to frustrate and delay their plans. Litigation is still pending and a judge recently ruled in favor of the Brinkmanns by dismissing the town’s request for the suit to be dismissed.

In their letter, the Brinkmanns also argued that it was “incumbent” on the town to provide more information on the pending traffic study.

Ms. Nappa asked for answers to those questions during a brief discussion before the vote.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty said the study was nearing completion but was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The study is moving forward,” Mr. Russell said, declining to get into specifics.

Following the Aug. 11 hearing on eminent domain, town officials will have a 90-day deadline to adopt and publish its findings and determinations concerning the acquisition. The report must address the public use and benefit of the proposal, location and reasons, general effect on the environment and local residents and other factors, according to the resolution.