Town Hall Notes: Board mulls ‘tree fee’ law for developers

Southold Town is proposing a code change that would allow builders pay the town a fee rather than replace trees removed during construction.

The code currently requires builders plant a certain amount of trees on a property they are developing. The Planning Board determines the number of required new trees when a site plan is submitted, town officials explained this week.

In some instances, however, it is not practical for the developer to plant the required amount of trees, mostly due to how the lot is configured or if the health of the new trees would be comprised after a property is developed, Mark Terry, a town planner, told Town Board members Tuesday.

It would be up to the Planning Board to determine whether a developer should plant or pay, according to the draft legislation.

The money generated from the new the law would to used by the town’s tree committee to purchase and plant trees in other, perhaps more appropriate areas of town.

A public hearing on the proposal is set for Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 4:30 p.m. in Town Hall.


The Southold Town Board this week put off voting on a proposed law that would impose expiration dates on Zoning Board of Appeals variances.

The draft law states that a variance approval would be good for three years. After that time, applicants would be able to apply for up to three one-year extensions to begin whatever projects they needed the zoning variances for.

Currently, variances approvals do not expire.

The vote was tabled at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting after some expressed concern that the language of the law suggests the one-year extensions would be automatic and not subject to approval of ZBA members.

“They should not be automatic,” said Bill Toedter, president of the North Fork Environmental Council and Southold resident. “The extensions are for the protection of the town, not the applicant.”

The board closed hearing without taking action.

Members are expected to vote on the draft law at its next regular session on Tuesday, Dec. 2.


Mr. Terry told board members Tuesday that he is ready for “the town to take a serious look” at draft legislation aimed at protecting the cultural integrity of church buildings should, they put up for sale.

As more and more church buildings are being put on the market in Southold Town, Mr. Terry has been working with town attorneys to craft a law that calls for the creation of a floating zone district for historic properties.

The floating zone would apply to other historic buildings, like firehouses, he said.

The law would provide an avenue for potential buyers to apply for special exceptions in the code that allow town-approved adaptive reuses for such buildings. The goal is to preserve the charm of the buildings while allowing them to become commercially viable in order to attract buyers, said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell.

Some reuses listed in the draft law include turning the buildings into single-family homes, apartment units, bed and breakfasts and indoor farmers markets, said Mr. Terry.

The legislation is still being reviewed by the town code committee.

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