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Petition condemns First Street house project in New Suffolk as ‘too big’

The proposed construction of a three-story home on First Street has encountered strong resistance from some New Suffolk residents.

Southold Town has received 11 letters of opposition to the building, as well as a petition with 130 signatures citing “undesirable” changes in “the character of the neighborhood” and “adverse [effects] on the environment and wetlands.” The petition further notes that the property is located in a FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area and that the house “would set a dangerous precedent” for construction in local wetlands. 

The First Street property belongs to Phil Loria, former owner of Captain Marty’s Fishing Station. He requested four variances for the proposed dwelling, which is meant to serve as his retirement home. 

“I’ve owned the property for 47 years, paid taxes on it … I just feel the town should allow me to build a house,” Mr. Loria told The Suffolk Times. He added that he’s reworking building plans and emphasized that he’s open to compromise. 

“I’d like to live in New Suffolk and so I’m willing to do whatever it takes, within reason,” he said. “I can see some of the objections of some of the people. I’m willing to compromise … I’d like to live there; they’re all going to be my neighbors. They’ve all been my friends. We’re trying to do the best we can to make it work.” 

The dispute seems to be part of a larger conversation about the size of houses in Southold Town. A July letter to the editor published in The Suffolk Times condemned the “too big house” as part of a trend in Southold Town. 

“There has been increasing conversation about how big houses in Southold Town have gotten,” the letter said. “Members of several concerned civic associations have joined together to propose additions to our code to sensibly limit residential building envelopes and square footage in an attempt to preserve and maintain the character and scale of our town.” 

In February, members of associations representing Orient, East Marion, Cutchogue, New Suffolk and Mattituck-Laurel appealed to the Southold Town Board for legislation to limit house size in their communities. Debate about the First Street proposal has frequently cited concerns including “community character” and fear that the building would prompt construction on other properties along the New Suffolk waterfront. 

Owners of neighboring properties also expressed concern about traffic congestion, coastal degradation, whether the house would survive flooding and storms and if the septic system would impact neighboring homes or Peconic Bay. 

Nick Mazzaferro, a professional engineer representing Mr. Loria, said at an Aug. 5 Zoning Board of Appeals hearing that the “house has been designed to optimize the conditions and protect the bay at the greatest extent possible.” He added that the house will use “the most advanced IA system” required by the town and county. 

“I’d like to assure many that are disappointed, there’s no 60-foot wall, there’s no Mount Everest … 10 feet from the property line and 18 feet from the street curb,” Mr. Loria said at the hearing. He emphasized that the planned building’s footprint is 1,372 square feet, which is within the permitted ground coverage. 

The petition filed with the town says there has never been a structure on the lot, which has been used for boat servicing and storage for more than 30 years. At a July 1 ZBA meeting, Mr. Loria said his mother purchased the .14-acre waterfront lot in 1974 “with the intention that [he] would build there.” 

Many who spoke in protest at hearings emphasized that their objections had nothing to do with Mr. Loria. The town has received a letter with 12 signatures supporting Mr. Loria, as well as 14 other letters of support.