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Developers tell East Marion residents they hope to move ahead with 80-condo proposal, may seek new change of zone

Developers plan to forge ahead with an 80-unit condominium at the site of an abandoned oyster factory at the end of Shipyard Lane in East Marion, despite new zoning that limits density on the parcel.

The Southold Town Board passed a resolution Tuesday that split-zones the 18.3-acre parcel as a mix of RR and R-80, or residential two-acre zoning that prioritizes single family units. RR still allows for some commercial development, such as a small hotel, but development potential is much less intensive than under the parcel’s previous zoning as Marine-II. MII would have allowed “a wide range of water dependent and water-related uses” such as commercial marinas, boatyards, restaurants, hotels and ferries.

At a community session on Saturday, architect Edward Butt pitched a similar proposal to one made to the Town Board last month. The developers’ plan, which has not been updated to accommodate for the zone change, includes 80 condominium units, a private marina, swimming pool, a beach area open to the local community, play area, tennis courts, green space and 24 units of workforce housing. Town Supervisor Scott Russell said last month that no existing zoning would allow for the project.

“What we’re here for today is to show you our thoughts, our ideas, and what we believe is the right thing for the site,” Mr. Butt said. “This thing has been an abandoned oyster factory for a very, very long time. It’s nonfunctional and can’t be saved. It’s obviously a blight in the neighborhood. The building is an eyesore. The property is being abused by different vandals and so on. We need to fix this property and put it up on track.”

He acknowledged that development plans do not comply with current zoning, but the intention has always been to request a change of zone for the parcel.

The condos would likely sell for two or three million apiece, he said. The developers said they believe it would be mostly a summer home community. They emphasized that they focus on residential, not commercial building.

An engineer for the project said the Village of Greenport sewer system has the capacity to handle the development, but he acknowledged there’s no guarantee the builders will receive approvals.

East Marion residents expressed concern on Saturday about traffic and beach access, with one audience member proposing a community vote on what should be done with the property. 

Councilwoman Jill Doherty, who was in the audience, stood up to clarify the application process. Private property is not subject to a referendum, she said. 

Once the developers put an application in, they would go to the Planning Board, which would then hold a public hearing. It’s up to the community to attend hearings and send in public feedback, she said, but ultimately they don’t have a say on how individuals use private property. Zone changes fall under the jurisdiction of the Town Board. 

A potential alternative for the property based on the new zoning, according to Mr. Butt, would be six large homes with accessory houses and a small hotel or townhouse community with a private marina. 

The developers plan to conduct a traffic study once they have more solidified plans for the property. No application for development has been filed with the town. They emphasized that the condos would generate tax revenue for Southold.

Mr. Butt said community input is important to the developers, who want to be “good stewards” of the property. He told a reporter after the meeting that his main takeaway from Saturday’s discussion was to maybe eliminate workforce housing from the proposal.

“Out of what I got out of here, I can see there’s no need for workforce housing, at least from our community perspective. Is there a generic need for it as a town? Yeah. Maybe this is not the spot. And that’s something we have to investigate and talk about with the town,” Mr. Butt said. 

“This is a big enough project that we’re really kind of developing a community. I think because we’re developing a community, we have to involve the fire department,” he added, suggesting the developers may make a donation to help increase emergency service capabilities. 

The conversation with residents was “very helpful,” he said, adding that the goal is to integrate with the community in a way that’s comfortable for everyone. “I think more people need to do exactly what we’re doing as a developer. There was a lot of input today.”

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