Plum Island zoning ready for public comment

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 showing the lab building and the ferry landing.

After months of back-and-forth discussions, Southold Town’s long-awaited plan to zone Plum Island is ready for public comment.

During its work session Tuesday the Town Board set the official public hearing on the issue for Tuesday, May 7.

The proposal would divide Plum Island into three zoning districts.

The Plum Island Research District would encompass the existing lab and surrounding 175 acres. About 600 undeveloped acres would be covered by the Plum Island Conservation District with a Marine District for the existing ferry facilities.

Since the 840-acre island is federally owned, it’s not subject to local planning regulations. The new zoning would take effect only if the island is sold for non-government use.

The town’s planning department began working on the zoning after the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to replace the Plum Island lab with a new $1 billion animal disease research facility in Manhattan, Kansas.

While Congress has not approved construction funding for that project, town Planning Director Heather Lanza said enacting zoning for Plum Island would be in the town’s best interest.

“The policy would provide the town some control over what can be constructed,” she said.

The hearing will take place in Town Hall beginning at 7:30 p.m.