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Water quality impacts will be studied in review of Strong’s Yacht Center proposal

As part of an environmental review required under state law, the owners of Strong’s Marine were tasked with studying water quality, traffic and other environmental impacts a planned expansion could have on the community.

But in a recent letter to the Planning Board, the applicants and their consultants argued that requests made in the document are “in many instances not germane” to the actual project, which call for two new boat storage buildings at Strong’s Yacht Center — one at 52,500 square feet and the other at 49,000 square feet — on the Mattituck property zoned Marine II and R80. There are already 69,245 square feet of boatyard buildings on the property.

“It is the applicant’s position that there are a number of irrelevant as well as excessive requests in the final scope,” attorney Charles Cuddy wrote in a letter to planning officials in late February urging the board to revise the final scope.

Specifically, the applicants took issue with requirements for a four-season study of groundwater impacts, a comprehensive review of tidal flow and boat traffic and the use of the term “mining” when referring to excavation plans included as part of the proposal, among others.

“The proposed application does not include any inlet modification that would alter tidal flow and does not introduce a vessel length that is currently not using the inlet today,” the letter to planning officials said.

Applicants also noted that the project wouldn’t include year-round use of the buildings since boats would arrive to go into storage at the close of the season in the fall and begin exiting the inlet in April and May.

The proposed buildings could store approximately 88 boats, according to their application.

Their request to amend aspects of the environmental review drew swift opposition from neighbors who formed the “Save Mattituck Inlet” coalition in response to the project last year. 

Town planning director Heather Lanza noted that the department had received 22 letters from residents and environmental groups responding to the applicant’s request.

“The final scope is, in our opinion, well-developed, appropriate, comprehensive and reflects a wide array of community concerns,” members of the coalition wrote in a letter to the Planning Board last week. “Cutting the process short undermines those good intentions. What’s more, it brushes aside the voices of the community.”

Ms. Lanza highlighted several clarifications and amendments the board ultimately agreed to adopt at Monday evening’s meeting. She noted that the changes are “fairly insignificant” in terms of the overall document, which will still include a breadth of environmental and traffic impacts.

Rather than undertake their own tidal flow study, the Planning Board agreed to allow the applicants to rely on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Mattituck Inlet Survey as well as existing water quality data from the county Department of Health Services, Cornell Cooperative Extension, state Department of Environmental Conservation and several other sources.

Water quality impacts, including impacts on the aquifer and groundwater, must still be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, officials said.

In addition, the board agreed to rescind the need for a comprehensive boat traffic study that would have encompassed the entire creek.

According to Ms. Lanza, the requirement was narrowed to just include examining impacts from additional boats using the inlet as a result of their expansion — a factor vice chairman James Rich felt important to leave in.

“I think we need to be observant here as far as the boat traffic goes,” he said.

The amendments were unanimously approved in a 4-0 vote, with chairman Donald Wilcenski recused. “[The changes are] in no way to be considered anything more than a slight change in the scope of what needs to be addressed,” Mr. Rich said.

After Monday’s meeting, Anne Sherwood Pundyk, a founder of Save Mattituck Inlet, said she was gratified by the outpouring of responses from the community.

“The amended Final Scope of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement unanimously approved by the board seems reasonable and I look forward to the information that will come from the four-season studies of environmental, traffic and quality of life factors,” she said.