The Southold Town Board presented the natural hazards chapter of the town’s comprehensive plan Wednesday during its annual visit to Fishers Island. The 10th chapter deals with disaster and emergency response and could potentially results in changes to the town’s building and wetlands code.
While other chapters of the comprehensive plan do not call for changes to town policy, this section would likely result in modifications to existing building and wetland codes, planning director Heather Lanza said.
A coastal resilience plan, which would include revisiting the town’s code on elevation of structures in a floodplain and stabilizing vulnerable bluffs, would be implemented to prevent coastal erosion and damage to the town’s infrastructure.
The town currently relies on hazard mitigation guidelines provided by the county, a system Ms. Lanza called “pretty good.” The proposed costal resilience plan would be an extension of that guide and would include mitigation measures for extreme temperatures and a rising sea level, Ms. Lanza said.
Reports predict sea levels to rise enough to permanently flood the lowest-lying areas in Southold over the next several decades, according to the planning board.
“If the rate continues to increase the actual sea level rise in the 2020’s could reach as high as 10 inches,” according to the draft document. “This will result in more homes and infrastructure being vulnerable to the effects of future storms.”
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The section also deals with developing a post-disaster relief plan.
“The town doesn’t have a long-term plan for disaster recovery,” Ms. Lanza said.
The planning board recommends the town consider creating a recovery and reconstruction ordinance in the town code. The ordinance would create temporary regulations for dealing with debris abatement, handling non-conforming uses and even permit fee waivers, Ms. Lanza said.
The new chapter also encourages the formation of a recovery management organization that would last into the long-term recovery phase and help direct the preparation and implementation of a reconstruction plan. The members would include representatives of the town’s building department, public works department, accounting office, highway department, planning department and engineers, according to the draft document.
Before the final draft is complete, Ms. Lanza said the planning board would take additional comments in the form of letters or email from the public on the chapter.