Decision on Strong’s expansion plan delayed until August

The Southold Town Planning Board agreed Monday to delay its decision on the proposed Strong’s Marine expansion proposal following a request from the business owner to submit a revised application. 

The board received a letter July 2 from Brown, Altman and Dileo LLP, the law firm representing Strong’s owner, Jeff Strong, stating their intent to “substantially reduce the scale and materially change the scope of the project.” 

The current proposal, originally submitted to town officials in 2018, calls for the construction of two heated buildings for indoor boat storage — 52,000 square feet and 49,000 square feet — at Strong’s Mill Road facility near Mattituck Inlet. The 32.96-acre parcel is zoned Marine II and R-80, which allows for marine uses and low-density residential development.

The proposed buildings could house more than 80 yachts averaging 60 feet in length, with some stretching to 86 feet. The project would also require the removal of 134,000 cubic yards of sand.

The revised site plan will reduce the scale of the project from two buildings to one, according the letter.

The decision comes after the Suffolk County Planning Commission voted last month to reject the current proposal due to “significant negative environmental impacts,” a report from the June 20 meeting stated.

The Southold Planning Board was prepared to follow suit at Monday’s meeting but agreed to delay issuing its final decision until Aug. 5 on the condition the revised application is submitted within two weeks. They voted on the measure 4-0, with chair Donald Wilcenski recusing himself.

Planning Board member James Rich III thanked department staff, Mr. Strong and the broader community, for their input and engagement on the project. Mr. Rich noted that the applicant has the right to resubmit the proposal under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and that the revised application will be thoroughly scrutinized.

“This is something that we are advised to do by our counsel,” Mr. Rich said to the audience of roughly 50 people. “We understand that we said we would make a decision on the application tonight; however, at that time the applicant had made no indication that they would revise the plans. All applicants have the right to submit revised plans at any time prior to a final decision on an application and this applicant has made it clear the intent to submit a revised plan that will substantially reduce the scale and materially change the scope of this project.” 

Mr. Strong announced at the June 20 meeting that he planned to work with the town and present a scaled-back version of the expansion proposal, which will require another supplemental environmental impact statement.

The decision to present the revised plan now is based on recommendations from the Suffolk County Planning Commission, Mr. Strong said.

“What we wrote to Southold Town Planning Board was that we wanted to follow Suffolk County Planning Commission’s recommendation and submit a revised plan consistent with their recommendations,” Mr. Strong said. “I’m glad that the Planning Board acted on our request, which is consistent with Suffolk County Planning Commissions recommendations.”

The crowd at Monday night’s Southold Town Planning Board meeting. (Melissa Azofeifa photo)

Since the project was initially proposed, multiple area civic organizations and scores of residents have raised concerns to local officials.

“What’s surprising is that they’re not making a decision on the current application, but they’re leaving it sort of open,” said Louise Harrison of Save the Sound, who attended meeting. “I don’t know how the town is going to deal with the revision. We don’t know what it is, we don’t know how substantial it is and we don’t know how they’re going to treat it. So I guess the bottom line is, ‘we’ll see.’ ”

She added that attorneys from both Save the Sound and Save Mattituck Inlet are keeping a careful eye on the proposal and urged the broader community to do so as well.

“Keep looking at the town’s files, keep looking at Save the Sound and the Save Mattituck Inlet website for updates and everybody just stay on this,” she said.

Save Mattituck Inlet was formed in December 2020 specifically to oppose the Strong’s project. Anne Sherwood Pundyk, a member of the organization, said that she is skeptical that the revised proposal will sufficiently address the many concerns residents have already voiced on the project.

“The developer had four years to come up with plans that would mitigate some of the environmental impacts and other impacts to the community character etcetera. They never did,” Ms. Sherwood Pundyk said. “All of a sudden, in two weeks, they’re going to come up with something that somehow solves the problem that took consultants and experts on all levels four years to completely solidify the fact that this project shouldn’t be built. I can’t imagine that this revision would have any merit. But we’ll see.”

Mr. Strong said that while there are many community members who have voiced their concerns about the project through letters and at meetings, there are also “many, many community members who are in support of the project.

“This property is both called for and zoned for exactly the type of buildings that we’re desiring to put there,” Mr. Strong said. “So we would hope the Southold Town Planning Board would give very serious consideration to that, along with the fact that we are willing and are going to put in a significantly revised application that will significantly cut down on the amount of sand to be trucked off-site.”

Ms. Sherwood Pundyk encouraged the whole community to stay involved.

“We’re going to be leading the effort to review and scrutinize whatever the next steps are so stay supportive, stay tuned,” she said.

Source link