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New Yorkers Debate Boat Storage Proposal for Long Island

By Lisa Finn

Numerous Long Island, N.Y.,  residents turned up in full force at a Southold Town Hall to voice opinions on both sides of a controversial proposal pitched by Strong’s Marine to build two new boat storage buildings on their Mattituck parcels.

On March 13, the Southold Town Planning Board voted to accept the developer’s revised draft environmental impact statement as adequate for public review. The public hearing was held to discuss the revised impact statement.

The plan for the Strong’s Marine storage buildings, which would be sited at 3430 Mill Road in Mattituck, would include the construction of two boat storage facilities, one at 52,500 square feet and the other at 49,000 square feet–zoning districts where there are currently 69,245 square feet feet of existing boatyard buildings.

Some Mattituck residents expressed concerns about the proposal saying it could impact the environment and their quality of life.

Jeff Strong, owner of Strong’s Marine, spoke to a Patch.com reporter in past years to clarify the issues and outline the proposal.

At the hearing, residents spoke passionately on both sides of the issue: Environmentalists decried the clearing of forest land and 643 mature trees, as well as wildlife habitats; others raised concerns about traffic and trucks disrupting the area roadways, as well as fears of flooding after the trees were cleared. Those in support of the plan reminded that the project is allowed under the parcel’s zoning, with no variance required, and said property owners have rights that need to be upheld. Many lauded the Strong family as good neighbors who would uphold the tenets of the North Fork’s bucolic quality of life. In addition, members of the commercial fishing community came out in solidarity, expressing the need for the boat storage as well as the jobs the plans would produce and the benefits to locals and tourists alike.

Some said the short-term land clearing would improve the long-term economic forecast for the property.

James Hinsch of Laurel said the Strong famiily had been well known for more than 40 years. “They are people of integrity. They have a commitment to the North Fork.” The plan, he said, “is ambitous, not reckless.”

Yacht storage for vessels is part of the town’s comprehensive plan for expanded maritime use, he said. He added that the project would mean long-term jobs for young people who are now forced to leave the North Fork and help the business remain a working boat yeard.

“We’ve seen many businesses on the North Fork sold to out of towners,” he said. “This is one of our own, a family owned businesses  that wants to expand capacity to meet a need.”

Anne Sherwood Pundyk, an artist who lives less than a mile from the proposed plan, said the DEIS does not adequately convey the “full significance of the visual impact” on the area, as well as the community characters; she said a “gaping hill behind the building where the woodland” will be removed is an issue.

Pundyk said she supports “Save Mattituck Inlet,” a group of residents who organized to voice concerns. In the past, Pundyk said it was with a “mix of horror and personal disappointment” that she learned of the proposed project, which is about a quarter-mile from her home.

“The size of the project is completely out of character for the Mattituck Inlet,” she said. “Nearly 500 trees will be destroyed along with their understory habitats for flora and fauna. The 134,000 cubic yards of sand excavated will not only destabilize the adjacent public open space woodland preserve, but promote erosion, affect runoff, and potentially impact groundwater and local well water.”

She worries about trucks on residential streets used by pedestrians, bicyclists and school buses, she said.

The board will reconvene in early June. 

Lisa Finn is a reporter for Patch.com.

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