Home News Local News Sports East athletic facility draws widespread public support at its first formal...

Sports East athletic facility draws widespread public support at its first formal public hearing

Paul Pawlowski, a principal in Sports East, a proposed athletic and fitness facility in Mattituck, speaking at a ZBA hearing Feb. 4.Photo: Denise Civiletti

Community residents turned out today largely to voice support for the Sports East proposal to build a fitness and athletics facility in Mattituck.

The Zoning Board of Appeals convened a hearing on an application for a special exception to allow the development of such a facility on a 21-acre site on Main Road, located in the R80 zoning use district.

In the R80 district, “annual membership clubs and accessory playgrounds, beaches, swimming pools, tennis courts, recreational buildings and maintenance buildings catering exclusively to members and their guests” are permitted by special exception from the ZBA.

One by one, residents stood at the podiums in the Southold Town Hall meeting room this morning to say how great the need is for such a facility on the North Fork. Parents spoke of traveling great distances to bring their children to indoor pools and sports facilities in western Suffolk and Nassau County. An elderly woman spoke of traveling to East Hampton to use the YMCA facility there “just to be able to move” and lamented not having access to an indoor pool here.

The director of a local nonprofit that works with at-risk youth said a facility like this, if affordable and accessible to all, would provide healthy activities for young people and be “such a bonus” to the community.

“This is something that our community definitely needs,” said Susan Toman of Communities that Care.

Several times, the crowd that filled the meeting room seats broke into applause for speakers who asked the ZBA to approve the use.

When ZBA chairwoman Leslie Weisman asked for a show of hands on support for the use if the community were assured the facility would be available and affordable to local residents, most hands in the room shot up.

“Seeing that the vast majority of the audience’s hands were raised, it’s safe to say the use itself is something the community believes is important, is necessary and is beneficial,” Weisman said. “The concern is, will it be beneficial to everyone?”

Indeed, while no one spoke in direct opposition to the proposal, some speakers expressed concerns about the traffic, noise and environmental impacts of the proposed sports complex.

The plan is for a 82,500-square-foot indoor sports facility on the south side of Main Road that would house a pool, tennis courts, a basketball court, multipurpose areas, a fitness room and a second floor that would house yoga studios as well as a cafe for members. Exterior facilities would include tennis courts and one multipurpose turf field, along with roughly 224 parking spaces, developer Paul Pawlowski told the ZBA. He is proposing two curb cuts on Main Road — one for ingress and egress and the second, a right-turn-only exit from the site.

Denise Geiss of Mattituck expressed many concerns about the proposed Sports East facility. Photo: Denise Civiletti
Denise Geiss of Mattituck expressed many concerns about the proposed Sports East facility. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Sigsbee Road resident Denise Geiss said the facility “will exponentially create more traffic” and said she was worried about traffic flow out of the site if left turns were to be prohibited.

“Then if you want to go east, you’ll have to go west, so people will go down Sigsbee or Factory Avenue, which are already very busy,” Geiss said. “Traffic is a really big concern. There’s just so much traffic in that area already.”

Geiss also asked if there would be early-morning activities on the outdoor field, as she is concerned about noise impacts.

“Also, when the indoor pool has to be drained for maintenance, where will that water be going?” she asked. Pawlowski replied that the county health department regulations would adequately address that, requiring leaching fields that could handle the water discharge. He noted that he is proposing a salt-water pool, not a chlorinated pool, and hopes the health department will allow that.

Geiss asked if the board can ensure that the membership fees will remain affordable tor local residents. The board answered that it has no control over fees to be charged. The resident further expressed concern over the developer’s business plan and whether the facility will be sustainable.

“We don’t want two big empty buildings as you enter Mattituck,” she said, referring to the former Capital One office building on the north side of Main Road.

Former Mattituck Parks District commissioner Doris McGreevy expressed concerns about the number of athletic activities that could be going on simultaneously. With all the proposed uses, if this all happens at once, she said, “I’m wondering about the intensity of uses on traffic and parking.”

Weisman reminded residents that the ZBA can put conditions on a special exception should it be granted, so long as the conditions further the general standards for special exceptions.

Matittuck-Laurel Civic Association president Mary Eisenstein made no comment during the hearing. She said afterward the group is still gathering facts and would comment after it has had a chance to draw conclusions about the proposal.

The ZBA cannot act on the special exception application yet. First the planning board must complete an environmental review. The planning board notified the ZBA that it would like lead agency status for purposes of that review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. (See prior story. ) The ZBA has agreed and adjourned the special exception hearing commenced today until after the planning board’s environmental review is finished and its report is delivered to the ZBA. The ZBA will reopen the hearing at that time and is accepting written comments in the interim.

Pawlowski’s proposed site plan conforms to all minimum setbacks, lot coverage and parking requirements of the zoning code, according to Southold planners. It requires no variances or change of zone.

However, to be entitled to a special exception, the developer must show that the proposed use:

  • won’t prevent “the orderly and reasonable use of adjacent properties or of
    properties in adjacent use districts;”
  • won’t “prevent the orderly and reasonable use of permitted or legally established uses in the district wherein the requested use is located or of permitted or legally established uses in adjacent use districts;
  • will not adversely affect the safety, health, welfare, comfort, convenience or the order of the town;
  • will be in harmony with and promote the general purposes and intent of the special exceptions chapter of the zoning code;
  • will be compatible with its surroundings and with the character of the
    neighborhood and of the community in general, particularly with regard to visibility, scale and overall appearance; and
  • will comply with the code requirements for stormwater management.

The developer must also show that all proposed structures, equipment, and material will be readily accessible for fire and police protection.

After the hearing concluded, Pawlowski stood in the aisle of the meeting room accepting well wishes from residents who offered handshakes and thank-you’s.

Pawlowski, who withdrew two prior proposals for the site —  one mixed use residential-retail and the other affordable rental housing — following pushback from the community, said he was not shocked by the outpouring of support today. “Mattituck has always been a sports-orientated town,” he said. “I greatly appreciate people coming out to show support.”

The application will now be reviewed by the planning board, which will have to issue a determination of significance for purposes of SEQRA review and make some decisions about the scope of that review.

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Denise Civiletti

Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.