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Guest Column: Save this last green corner in Mattituck

The Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association, as a rule, forgoes public endorsements, working instead to be a channel of information to the broad community. MLCA has been, and remains, neutral concerning Southold Town’s eminent domain proposal for property at the Mattituck intersection of Main Road and New Suffolk Avenue.

What we do not remain neutral on is the vision for the hamlet center of Mattituck — what it should look like, feel like and how it should function — as we imagine the future. The MLCA is respectful of property rights while protecting the safety and character of our community. Much of the vision of how smart growth planning and development can look in our town is based on the following information. We feel our members share the knowledge that this is a critical moment for our communities. We all need to know how we got here, and the important role individuals and groups play in shaping our future.

For years, MLCA has worked publicly, in the community and with many stakeholders, to preserve this corner as a largely natural public green or common. Following is an overview of our timeline of involvement – public meetings, letters to elected officials, member resolutions, and so on.

Since the MLCA was founded in 2015, we’ve hosted local, communitywide discussions about traffic, pedestrian safety, land use, environmental quality, growth, quality of life and more. The corner-as-park recommendation goes back at least to the 2005 Hamlet Stakeholder Study and other town studies. A corner park was discussed at stakeholder meetings for the Comprehensive Plan. MLCA public meetings and focus groups included discussions of a village green.

On Feb. 1, 2017, MLCA wrote asking the Town to help preserve “The Last Green Corner” as a passive-recreation park – a simple public gathering place in nature, located at the center of our community. Town and county officials agreed and initiated the long process to purchase the property. In support, MLCA and the North Fork Environmental Council publicly promised to care for the park should it be realized.

On Sept. 18, 2017, and again on Jan. 30, 2019, MLCA hosted public meetings at which the future owner of the corner was given feedback about its development proposal and specific concerns about traffic, safety, density, environmental impacts and community character — and ongoing work toward the Comprehensive Plan and the town’s study of Mattituck traffic.

By Aug. 26, 2019, MCLA members had overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that reads in part:“Until protective and transformative initiatives are implemented [and] 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 should implement its Comprehensive Plan with the Plan’s current commitment to make The Last Green Corner a public park.”

By autumn 2019, Town and county officials had formally offered Bridgehampton National Bank (BNB) fair market value (per county valuation process) for The Last Green Corner. MLCA, not a party to the offer, supported the acquisition initiative generally with letters to BNB’s president. BNB did not reply to the offer or the letters.

In December 2019, BNB sold the lot to the current owner. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, at 3 p.m., the Town Board will hold a virtual public hearing on whether to declare eminent domain over the corner property. Details are available from Town Hall or at mattitucklaurelcivic.org.

Ms. Smith is president of the Mattituck Laurel Civic Association.