Town revises draft legislation for Plum Island zoning

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | The Southold Town Board could adopt a bill to zone Plum Island at its next meeting on Aug. 27.

The Southold Town Board appears poised to approve a bill later this month that will create two new zoning districts specific to Plum Island. But that law will no longer include language to amend the section of the Town Code regulating uses for ferry terminals, town officials said Tuesday.

Under the original proposal, the town’s current Marine District zoning would have been amended to require ferry terminals “to have at least 10 acres of buildable land dedicated to each ferry service provided,” while also offering a certain number of parking spaces for passengers.

Following concerns from residents and business owners who say such an amendment would mean the town’s existing ferry terminals outside Plum Island would have non-conforming lots, the town is now moving forward with a bill that includes only the two new zoning districts.

“[Marine district code changes are] not necessary for us to proceed with Plum Island zoning,” Southold Town planning director Heather Lanza said after the meeting. “We want to spend some time thinking through the details of it. It needs a little more work.”

Her comments echoed a sentiment shared earlier in the evening by Riverhead attorney Charles Cuddy, who spoke on behalf of Cross Sound Ferry during a public hearing on the proposed zoning.

“I think [the law] was done hastily,” Mr. Cuddy said.

Ms. Lanza said the Marine District portion of the bill will now be sent back to the town’s code committee for further review before being presented during a future public hearing.

The pressure on the town to zone the 840-acre island, which is federally owned and therefore not currently subject to local planning regulations, intensified when the U.S. General Services Administration recommended the government sell the land to a private developer for the construction of houses on the property.

With that in mind, the Town Board will now turn its attention to approving new research and conservation zones specific to the island. The newly proposed zones aim to ensure Plum Island is used primarily for research and education in the future, according to the bill.

The Plum Island Research District would include the existing lab and the 160 acres immediately surrounding it, while the Plum Island Conservation District would cover 600 undeveloped acres.

The Town Board is expected to adopt the zoning proposal at its Aug. 27 meeting.

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