05/27/14 12:00pm
05/27/2014 12:00 PM
Southold Town planning director Heather Lantz at Thursday's meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Southold Town planning director Heather Lanza at Thursday’s meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Southold Town will unveil interactive maps online that detail current zoning, one of the ideas discussed at last Thursday’s informational meeting at Town Hall. The maps are expected to be available in about two months, according to planning director Heather Lanza.

Over 20 people attended the meeting  to discuss Southold hamlet’s zoning and land use as part of the Southold Town Comprehensive Plan.

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07/19/13 11:00am
07/19/2013 11:00 AM

The Town Board’s attempt to pass two separate pieces of legislation dictating the use of wineries has proven to be a tricky task.

The already controversial special events law draft was expected to be the focus of a Tuesday night public hearing, but the issue became muddied by a separate proposed policy change amending the town’s legal definition of a winery.

Critics argued that the two pieces of legislation should be combined.

“It important when we look at the proposed law today to realize it’s only half a law,” said Sal Diliberto of the Long Island Wine Council. “We are being asked to look at a law that incorporates another proposed law, which is not here today.”

The special events law seeks to give the town more control over events held at wineries and other properties. It would require a permit for any gathering that exceeds a building’s occupancy or parking capacity or is otherwise prohibited by the property’s zoning. A permit would also be required for events involving the closing of a public street, the use of amplified sound, the sale of food or merchandise, the placement of portable toilets and a number of other circumstances.

At the same time, the town is considering revisiting the code language on what constitutes a winery and what activities are permitted there.

During their morning work session board members requested clarification from the code committee on town zoning polices on allowable uses for wineries and the penalties for violations.

Current regulations state that wineries should primarily sell products made from grapes grown on site and have a minimum of 10 acres dedicated to vineyards or other agricultural purposes.

Supervisor Scott Russell said the goal of redefining the usage language is to expand what’s considered normal business practice and thereby allow vineyards to hold events such as weddings without a special events permit.

“We don’t want people to think they need a special events permit when they have a four-piece band come in on a Saturday and end up having hundreds of people showing up,” Mr. Russell said after the meeting. “That is not a special event. That is just a good day.”

The special events law and the winery use review come in response to residents’ complaints about such events — most notably at Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue — and concern about the town’s options in addressing code violations.

Some critics said separating the two pieces of legislation would have unwelcome consequences for businesses other than wineries.

“In theory, the bill would include yard sales and lemonade stands as special events,” said Marilyn Marks, owner of Shorecrest Bed & Breakfast in Southold. “If the board does not change the legislation regarding custom-driven events like weddings, it will be virtually impossible for [B&B] owners to run those types of events. It needs to be clearer.”

The draft states that the permit requirement does not apply to occasional private events held on residential properties.

This not the first time the proposed law has been called confusing. In the past, critics said the town failed to clearly define what qualifies as a special event, forcing organizers of routine events to undergo burdensome permit procedures.

A previous version of the code change was shelved last year when representatives of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which has the power to overturn local laws it believes curtail agricultural activities, found the original events draft did indeed place undue restrictions on farming. This week town attorney Martin Finnegan said that state agency supports the revised proposal.

The less restrictive draft continues to draw fire from winery operators who say it would limit the events they could sponsor and thereby decrease the area’s agritourism business.

“This is certainly better than the draft you had before,” said Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council. “We still have concerns. We hope we can come up with some kind of compromise that allows us flexibility.”

Mr. Bate requested omitting a piece of the legislation that would prevent property owners from acquiring a new special events permit if they are the subject of an unresolved violation action.

He also asked that applications for special events be reviewed within 30 days to assure that event scan be properly marketed, and removing the $250 fee for applying submitted less than 60 days in advance of an event.

“That is an exorbitant fee for a small winery should an opportunity come up in less than 60 days,” he said. “It’s unfair.”

The board tabled the special events law.

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03/20/13 10:00am
03/20/2013 10:00 AM
TIM KELLY PHOTO | Research work could continue on Plum Island's westernmost section under new zoning proposed by Southold's Planning Department.

TIM KELLY PHOTO | An aerial view of Plum Island.

Southold Town’s long-awaited plan to zone Plum Island could be ready for public comment in April. The town’s code committee had its last look at the proposed zoning March 14.

The island has never been under any zoning category because it has been in federal hands and is therefore not subject to local planning regulations. The proposed zoning would go into effect only if the federal government sells the 840-acre island, home to a national laboratory studying animal diseases.

The town’s action was prompted by the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to replace the Plum Island lab with a new $1 billion animal disease research facility in Manhattan, Kan.

Homeland Security took title to the 46-acre Kansas site in January and, in February, DHS and the State of Kansas awarded an $80 million contract to build a utility plant there. But Congress has yet to authorize any additional funding.

It remains to be seen whether President Obama will include the Kansas construction in his 2014 federal budget, which was due in early February but will not be released until early April.

The pending town plan would divide Plum Island into three zoning districts. The Plum Island Research District would encompass the existing lab and surrounding 175 acres, while the Plum Island Conservation District would encompass 600 undeveloped acres. The third zone, Marine II, would allow for improved access to the island at its existing ferry facilities. Improvements to ferry services would be granted by special exception permit from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Early drafts of the zoning proposal allowed renewable energy generation on the island — which could have included wind and tidal power. But because environmental groups raised concerns about the effect of other generation sources on birds and marine life, the latest draft allows only soloar energy generation. A solar energy permit would also require a special exception permit from the ZBA.

Members of the code committee said at their March 14 meeting that they hoped to revisit other renewable energy production on the island after the initial zoning is adopted.

The town’s planning department is currently completing a study to back up any zoning changes, said planning director Heather Lanza.

Ms. Lanza said an April public hearing could be set by the Town Board as soon as their March 26 meeting.

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