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Brinkmann's Hardware store owners file federal suit in Southold Town property standoff

A truck with a message opposing Southold Town's

A truck with a message opposing Southold Town's attempt to seize property owned by the family that owns the Brinkmann's Hardware chain is seen on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Credit: Randee Daddona

The dispute between Southold Town and the owners of family-operated Brinkmann’s Hardware chain over a Mattituck property the family owns has escalated, with attorneys for the family filing a federal lawsuit against the town.

The family’s attorneys, from the Arlington, Virginia-based Institute of Justice, a nonprofit national law firm, filed the lawsuit May 4 in U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip in an ongoing dispute over a 1.8-acre property the Brinkmanns purchased in December 2016.

The town is attempting to seize the property at 12500 Main Rd. via eminent domain for possible use as a public park, but the Brinkmanns want to build a hardware store on the land after applying for a building application in June 2018.

The town currently has a moratorium, enacted in February 2019, that prohibits town agencies from issuing or approving building applications or site plan reviews along Main Road between Bay Avenue and Pike Street. The Southold Town Board voted in September 2019 to acquire the property either by sale or eminent domain, which the Brinkmanns have been fighting ever since.

The lawsuit claims the town lacks "any legitimate reason to stop the Brinkmanns from building its new location," which has led them to try and take the property through eminent domain.

The Brinkmanns seek an injunction preventing the town from using eminent domain to take the land "based on the invalid public-use determination at issue here or any similarly invalid declaration in the future," the lawsuit states. They also want it declared that because the town’s aim to use the property for a park is only a "pretext" to stop the Brinkmanns from building the store, that claiming the property under eminent domain violates the family’s Fifth Amendment rights.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell declined last week to comment, citing pending litigation. He referred comment to Town Attorney William Duffy. Duffy could not be reached for comment.

Hank Brinkmann, co-owner of Brinkmann’s Hardware, told Newsday on Friday that his family is prepared to wait however long it takes for a resolution.

"We have vowed from the very beginning that we would not give up, we will not give in, we will not be bullied off our property, and we’re going to fight this to the very end," Brinkmann said. "If it takes years, we’ll be at it for years. If we can get this done sooner, that will be all the better."

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