The Southold Town Board voted 4-2 in favor of initiating an eminent domain proceeding against Brinkmann Hardware Corporation, claiming the 1.75-acre property should be acquired for use as an undeveloped village green.
The Brinkmanns are seeking to build a hardware store on the property on northwest corner of Main Road and New Suffolk Avenue in Mattituck.
Under the eminent domain procedure, the town would go to state Supreme Court with an order to show cause, and then to file an acquisition map, according to Town Attorney Bill Duffy. The court would determine if it is a “public use,” and then, if the Brinkmanns challenge that, the courts would determine how much the town would have to pay them for the land, according to Mr. Duffy.
“I’ll see them in court,” said Hank Brinkmann, one of the owners of the company, in response to the Town Board action.
Council members Jim Dinizio and Sarah Nappa cast the two no votes.
“I object to the use of eminent domain at this time because the town had plenty of time to make a positive move toward bringing the wishes of the community to reality,” Mr. Dinizio said.
He said the town’s 2005 Hamlet Plan, its 2011 Mattituck Corridor Study and even its update of the Comprehensive Plan suggested that site as a park.
“The time to use such draconian measures as eminent domain was when the property was not for sale,” Mr. Dinizio said. “This property sat idle for years in the hands of an owner that did not have a plan for its use and the town did little” to try and acquire it until a development proposal for the site was filed.
Ms. Nappa said after the meeting that her reasons were similar, in that the town should have sought to buy the land earlier.
“I don’t feel like eminent domain is appropriate for this location,” she said. “This should have been looked at before there was a development plan on the table.”
Ms. Nappa said she doesn’t believe a hardware store should go in that location, which is located at a busy intersection, but said eminent domain should not have been used.
“The same reasons that make that parcel undesirable for a hardware store are the same reasons that make it undesirable for a public park,” she said.
“I believe that this was the right way for us to go, so I vote yes,” Councilwoman Jill Doherty said in voting for the eminent domain.
More than two dozen community members spoke during a virtual hearing last month on the topic, with the majority speaking in support of the town’s use of eminent domain. Dozens of letters and emails were also received by the Town Board both in favor of and against eminent domain.
The project is currently thwarted by a building moratorium in place along Main Road in Mattituck first enacted in February 2019.
The town initially voted 5-1 to begin eminent domain proceedings against the Brinkmanns in September 2019, which Mr. Dinizio opposed.