Planning Board finds environmental impact statement for Strong’s storage buildings incomplete

The Southold Planning Board has found a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Strong’s Yacht Center storage buildings incomplete.

The proposal includes the construction of two one-story buildings — 52,000 square feet and 49,000 square feet — to store an estimated 88 yachts during the winter, according to the December DEIS. The Planning Department advised finding the DEIS inadequate for public review based on staff comments, a memorandum from the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, and a memorandum from consulting group Nelson Pope Voorhis, LLC and Nelson + Pope Engineers, Architects, Surveyors. 

NPV in association with N+P conducted a preliminary review of the DEIS to assist the Planning Board as lead agency in determining the document’s consistency with Final Scope requirements and for compliance with the state Environmental Quality Review Act. 

In a May 6 memorandum, the groups outlined several comments for Strong’s to address before the environmental impact statement is reviewed by the public, considering factors such as hydrology and completeness in terms of traffic and transportation related analyses. 

The seven-page review said there “appears to be limited information on existing groundwater quality in the area” and recommends including more details about times of peak marine traffic, among other things. It also questions how much water would be needed for post-development conditions and says the “applicant has provided no meaningful and enforceable mitigation” to address the impacts of construction noise, dust and potential vibration on quality of life in the area.

The consulting group additionally requests further details and analysis in the provided traffic study, and points out that the project’s Final Scope requires the traffic study include an evaluation of barge use to mitigate impacts during construction as an alternative to trucks.

In a separate April 8 memorandum, OPRHP expressed concerns about potential impacts to historic architectural resources as a result of vibrations from construction vehicles. The office recommended the preparation and implementation of a Construction Protection Plan for the Old Mill Restaurant and Water Tower and Building along West Mill Road, which are both eligible for listing in the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. 

Town planning staff noted some similar reasons to find the DEIS incomplete in a May 9 summary. The impact to quality of life during construction has not been “adequately discussed,” including the total number of truck trips per day during the project and mitigation to address “potential large adverse impacts” from the subsequent traffic.

The staff also asks Strong’s to “elaborate as to why meeting market demand” at that location “is a public benefit,” in response to an argument that the storage buildings would “bring additional jobs and a new tax revenue stream to the Town of Southold,” in addition to meeting market demand for local indoor winter storage. 

The proposed storage buildings have been a source of community controversy in recent years, sparking the formation of community group Save Mattituck Inlet and a blue ribbon campaign to protest construction. A petition against the proposal had garnered nearly 2,800 signatures as of May 10.

Opposition has criticized the environmental impact of the project, which activists say would impact dozens of acres of neighboring woodlands, cut down more than 630 mature trees, haul away 134,000 cubic yards of sand, remove a natural feature protecting against climate change impact and impact a significant coastal fish and wildlife habitat.

Save Mattituck Inlet has listed said impacts on a website, along with the community group’s concerns. Among them are the impacts of “strip-mining the hillside and destroying the forest areas;” surface water pollution; the disruption of groundwater, flooding, run-off and erosion; community character; and impacts to infrastructure and pedestrian safety during construction.

Jeff Strong, owner of Strong’s Marine, told The Suffolk Times in February that the project is 100% compliant with Marine II industrial zoning, state Department of Environmental Conservation and Southold Town Trustee regulations and site-specific local waterfront revitalization program recommendations.

“From our perspective, we know and we’ve got a very long history of being good neighbors and good commercial stewards of the waterfront and that’s near and dear to us,” he said at the time, noting that Strong’s Marine plans to plant more than 100 new trees on site after construction is completed and pointing to ongoing environmental initiatives. “We’re not going to do something that’s going to negatively impact the inlet because it would negatively affect my family.” 

Town records indicate nearly 150 letters of support have been submitted for the project from local residents and business owners, along with a few letters of concern.