The Southold Town Board is considering rezoning a parcel of land next to the Dinizio & Sons service station on the corner of Wickham Avenue and Route 48 in Mattituck after a two-hour public hearing brought a half-dozen opponents to Southold Town Hall on February 12 despite the inclement weather.
The applicant, Harold R. Reeve & Sons, wants to rezone a 25,000-square-foot zoned for business use and portions of an adjacent residential lot to create an 84,000-square-foot parcel zoned for “limited business” use, where, say, a restaurant or winery could be built on Route 48.
Abigail Wickham of Wickham, Bressler & Geasa represented the applicant in support of “reclaiming” square footage of the business-zoned lot abutting Route 48 that she said has been “chipped away by the town” through the years. She asked to increase buildable business space toward Mattituck Creek. Rezoning the lot for limited business use “may provide a better transition to adjacent residentially-zoned and developed land with suitable mitigation measures,” she said.
The local attorney cited the more intensive nature of the uses found at Dinizio & Sons service station next door, and Strong’s Marine across the creek from the property, to support her claim that “surrounding properties are not pristine residential” and rather “a pocket of residential engulfed in higher intensity uses.”
Wickham pointed to a report submitted by the town’s environmental consultants Nelson, Pope & Voorhis stating, “It is not anticipated that significant land-use impacts will result from the rezoning.”
She said the applicant could have gone to the town Zoning Board of Appeals to create parking behind the business zoned lot or even rezone the entire parcel, citing variances granted to Capital One and East End Sporting Goods in Mattituck, as well as Mullen Motors in Southold. Instead, she said, Harold R. Reeves & Sons had chosen a more tempered approach by working directly with the town board.
But several unhappy neighbors, including LeRoy Heyliger, a former member of the Southold Housing Advisory Commission, and Ben Polen, a new resident, who said he likes the quiet nature of the area and has hired a lawyer to combat development, spoke in opposition of the project.
Southold Town Planning Board chairman Don Wilcenski also sent a letter restating the board’s 2013 concerns that the proposed 31 percent increase of business-zoned use would allow for “a more substantial commercial build-out” than the existing B-zone restrictions. A future restaurant or winery on a 1.84-acre parcel may be deleterious to the residential area and are better located within the hamlet center,” he added.
Wilcenski suggested the town board instead consider a residential office zoning designation that would allow a restaurant with a special exception permit, but not allow a winery, to “alleviate the potential of incompatible commercial uses to the residential uses.”
Charles Giuli, president of the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association, echoed Wilcenski’s suggestions. “If it were to become residential office it would set a precedent, which we believe can be useful in the coming months, because when the comprehensive plan is adopted, it’ll give cause to this board and the town to review zoning throughout the town,” he said.
“As an example, the Main Road in the heart of Mattituck right now is zoned on one side totally residential office and on the other side there are several lots that are hamlet business. If those were changed to residential office, it would ensure conformity on both sides of the street,” said Giuli. He added that the residential office zoning would also ensure that any commercial build-out wouldn’t be large enough to “create any kind of environmental hazard or noise hazard.”
Last week’s hearing came after the town board unanimously voted to issue a moratorium on permits and approvals in the area of Love Lane on Main Road bounded by the intersection of Route 25 and Bay Ave on the west and Route 25 and Pike Street on the east. The moratorium will remain in effect until the town and state have completed a traffic study to identify ways of improve parking, cross walks, and other infrastructure addressing what the town board sees as a need to “handle the drastic increase in traffic in recent years and to allow for the safe passage of pedestrians.”