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Cutchogue Rezones Neighborhood

Southold's town board voted unanimously last night to

change the zoning of the Church Lane neighborhood in Cutchogue - a poor black

enclave next to the town's closed landfill - from light industrial back to

residential use.

The land was originally zoned for residential and agricultural use, but was

changed in 1989 to light industrial because of its proximity to the dump.

While Supervisor Joshua Horton has fought to rezone the property, the rest

of the town board has resisted, saying the industrial zoning makes sense. But

their attitude may have changed after Horton presented them with two land-use

studies that supported the zone change.

While the black residents living on Church Lane want the change to keep the

noise and possible pollution of commercial development away from their homes,

white residents who own land to the west of Church Lane want to keep the light

industrial zoning because it makes their property more valuable. Some of these

residents said they bought their property for its development potential after

it was rezoned in 1989 and they are expected to attend the hearing to argue

against the switch back to residential zoning.

Church Lane homeowners began pushing for the change last year when they

learned that the town had rezoned the land their homes were built on in 1989

without notifying them. They said they only learned of the change when they

went to town hall to oppose a bid to build a 5,000-square-foot pool-supply

warehouse on their street.

The neighborhood, which consists of about nine homes, has been mostly

African-American since the 1920s, when sharecroppers from the South migrated to

Southold in search of better jobs. Some of those residents say the area, which

borders the landfill, a solid waste transfer station and compost facility, was

the only place they were allowed to live back then.

Town board members say the proximity to the landfill made the area

ill-suited for residential use, but they said they were not trying to displace

the existing residents, whose homes can remain forever as a pre-existing

non-conforming use.

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