Southold zoning project launches townwide survey

Multiple civic associations within Southold Town will host community roundtable discussions during March about the town’s Zoning Update Project to give residents the opportunity to share their thoughts on land-use priorities. 

The Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association hosted the first in the a series of informational sessions Monday, during which Heather Lanza, director of the town planning department, gave a presentation on the basics of zoning, broke down the types of zoning districts and explained why the zoning update is essential to implementing the town’s Comprehensive Plan

“I’ve heard people say the plan contradicts itself because it says ‘improve the economy’ in one chapter and ‘protect natural resources’ in another, but I think what you have to do is look at the plan as a whole,” Ms. Lanza said. “Keep the vision in mind and understand that the overall plan calls for a balance of development that fits in the community.” 

Adopted by the Southold Town Board in 2020, the comprehensive plan outlines 13 townwide goals — ranging from land preservation to affordable housing — that can also apply to individual hamlets. 

The purpose of the zoning update project is to amend the rules that regulate how every property in Southold Town can be used. By imposing an updated code, the town can follow through on the goals recommended in the comprehensive plan. 

A  Zoning Update Advisory Committee consisting of 11 members  — four town employees and seven residents — has been charged with ongoing feedback to the town’s consultant groups, ZoneCo LLC and Hardesty & Hanover.  

The consultants, in turn, are tasked with drafting materials that detail the 19 zoning districts that currently prescribe allowable land uses within the town, highlight outdated language and inconsistencies, and eventually offer solutions for updating the town’s zoning code, which hasn’t undergone a major overhaul since 1989. 

At present, Ms. Lanza said, the project is in the “calibration stage” where the committee and consultants will begin to determine what changes need to be made to Southold Town’s zoning code to achieve the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan. 

Community participation is the next step in the process, which begins with the townwide survey and this series of informational meetings hosted by the civic associations.

Mark Terry, assistant town planning director, said the residents of  Southold Town and its hamlets are the “experts” when it comes to defining the needs and priorities of their community.

“It seems like we are in a transition now in Southold ,where the character that everybody has worked so hard to preserve has been attracting different types of uses and other things that we really haven’t contemplated,” Mr. Terry said. “That’s why zoning is important.”

Following Ms. Lanza’s presentation, attendees split into breakout groups to discuss which issues they feel should be prioritized and to share their ideas on how the land should be used.

Issuers including affordable housing, the importance of protecting farmland, maintaining community character, traffic congestion and hotel development were raised during the breakout sessions. 

To make the session more interactive and visual, each guest was given five red stickers and asked to place them next to the five issues they considered most crucial among 12 issues on a large paper list posted on the wall. 

Erich Cramer, historian with  the Mattituck-Laurel Historical Society, supported the civic associations’ plan of hosting more of these forums to further open the door for public opinion on zoning. 

As a historian, he shared his viewpoint on preservation, noting that maintaining community character needs to include protecting historic houses in Mattituck and Laurel.

“We sort of take preservation for granted, and by taking it for granted, it pretty much gets ignored,” Mr. Cramer said. “I think exercises like this are absolutely essential.” 

Ms. Lanza emphasized that those who are not able to attend a scheduled meeting can still participate and their views through the online survey, now posted at

Future zoning update meetings 

• Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m.,  East Marion Community Association, East Marion Fire Department meeting room 

• Sunday, March 3, 2 p.m.,  Orient Association, Poquatuck Hall

• Thursday, March 7, 6 p.m.,  Greenport Village,  Third Street firehouse (Zoom option available) 

• Thursday, March 14, 5:30 p.m.,  Cutchogue/New Suffolk Civic Association,  Cutchogue New Suffolk  Library 

• Saturday, March 23,  10 a.m.,  Southold Peconic Civic Association, Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation 

• Monday, March 25, 6:30 p.m., North Fork Chambers of Commerce, location to be determined 

• Thursday, March 28, 6 p.m., Fishers Island Community Board,  Zoom meeting hosted by Beth Cashel, Fishers Island/Town liaison