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Southold Town Board discusses bottleneck outside Harbes Farm

Southold police expect seasonal fall traffic to start winding down after this weekend, Chief Martin Flatley said during Tuesday’s Town Board work session. 

The Southold and Riverhead police departments are continuing to use coordinated plans established last year, the chief said, noting that, on the Southold side, that “basically includes having at least a two- to three-man detail at Harbes Farm in Mattituck on Sound Avenue.”

“Our basic strategy is really just managing traffic [there],” he continued. “We set up the crosswalk, we’re helping the pedestrians crossing back and forth. The issue arises, which it did this past weekend … the parking lots fill up on both sides of the road [and] then we’re dealing with traffic … up Aldrich Lane and some of the side streets on Sound Avenue.”

Chief Flatley said Harbes manages parking on site and coordinates with traffic officers on the outside to move traffic along. This past weekend, he added, excess parking was redirected to the west side of Aldrich Lane where there’s no housing. 

‘With all the venues that are popping up on Sound Avenue, it’s just getting worse.’

Scott Russell

Harbes reimburses the town for traffic control and Riverhead has similarly assigned several officers to help gridlock at other areas with heavy traffic. Chief Flatley said Southold police aren’t focused on other traffic hotspots right now. 

“There’s so few people that are willing to drive through the clog that happens in the Jamesport-Aquebogue area that it lessens the amount of cars out here that are traveling, say, to Greenport Village or farther east,” he said, although he acknowledged that wineries are still busy this time of year. Councilman James Dinizio suggested taking further action to mitigate traffic, starting with the bottleneck surrounding Harbes. 

“At some point in time, we have to stop accommodating that business and get the traffic moving,” he said. “What more can be done? Not necessarily by police, but what … your officers have observed.”

Mr. Dinizio said other businesses farther east are hurt by the traffic outside the farm and suggested potentially either restricting parking further or improving shoulders along the nearby road to alleviate it.

“You make it seem like we’ve been ignoring it, Jim,” Supervisor Scott Russell replied. “We’ve been trying to solve it — we held a summit in Riverhead about two years ago … to try to bring solutions. It’s not as easy as it sounds.” 

Mr. Russell pointed out that people are “pretty intent” on getting to the farm and it’s “very difficult to regulate retail operations with regards to agriculture.”

“It’s not like we’re ignoring these; we’ve been trying to bring solutions for almost a decade,” he said. “And with all the venues that are popping up on Sound Avenue, it’s just getting worse. But I agree that businesses, including farms to the east of those bottlenecks, they are getting hurt. I agree with that. But it’s not like anybody’s ignoring it.”

Mr. Dinizio responded that the town should still focus on doing more. 

“We need to continue to talk about it. The chief needs to tell us what problems he sees there and then whatever committees you have that address these, need to take that into consideration. I was just throwing out ideas,” he said. “But I see a problem, I’ve experienced it.”

Chief Flatley pointed out that regardless of which business they are trying to get to, people driving from hours up island are not likely to turn around just because a parking lot is full. 

“They’re going to find another place to go,” he said. 

Residents living nearby have complained in recent weeks about the traffic surrounding Harbes, including at Town Board meetings. At their regular meeting later on Tuesday, Karen Wallace of Mattituck pressed board members to take further action on traffic and parking overflow at the farm.

Mr. Russell responded that the town has been working with the Harbes family, who have retained counsel, and he can’t comment further. 

During the work session, other Town Board members suggested conducting further traffic or engineering studies in the area and taking the next six months to focus on potential solutions.