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Influx of pool house applications has Town Board considering code change

04/26/2019 6:00 AM |

An overwhelming number of applications for pool houses flooding Southold Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals has led town officials to consider amending the code to include a formal definition of the term.

A public hearing has been set for Tuesday, May 21. 

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, ZBA chair Leslie Weisman pushed for an amendment. 

Ms. Weisman first brought the proposal to board members April 9, making the argument that clearly defining what can and cannot exist within a pool house — considered an “accessory structure” under neighboring town codes — would keep property owners within town limits.

“Everybody needs to assume responsibility,” she said. “We have no objection to the pool house at all. People want to make a lovely outdoor recreational amenity, that’s fine. But they need to understand the boundaries of what the town feels is fair.”

Ms. Weisman said people typically aren’t familiar with the regulations and are quick to build based on what appears most attractive and useful to them. If adopted, she said, the amended code will serve as a guide.

The draft proposal mandates that pool houses may not exceed 350 square feet of net gross area, which Ms. Weisman noted is more that the limits for similar structures in nearby towns: 250 square feet in Southampton and 200 square feet in East Hampton. The draft limits the size of a refrigerator to no more than five cubic feet and allows only one bathroom with a toilet and sink. Showers have historically not been allowed inside pool houses and plumbing fixtures are limited, according to chief building inspector Michael Verity.

Another stipulation is that pool houses may not include a kitchen or be designed for cooking or sleeping.

“We don’t want to be overly restrictive,” Ms. Weisman said, “but we think this is a very reasonable proposal and will be very helpful to our town and to property owners who need to understand the limits of what they’re allowed to do.”

Board member Louisa Evans said that while she understands the need for an updated definition, it’s unfortunate that it’s needed in the first place. 

“It’s kind of sad that someone who legitimately is putting what they think is a pool house -— and that’s all they intend to use it as — can’t have amenities there because of people making it a second dwelling.”

Councilman James Dinizio Jr. said he has no objection to the aforementioned clauses.

“I have objections to a person sleeping there,” he said. “And that’s basically why we have a building code.” 

Ms. Weisman said she and Mr. Verity are currently looking at a structure that was originally designed as a pool house, but was never accompanied by a pool. The applicant, she said, claimed financial reasons were the cause, but the pool house was eventually used illegally and is now in the process of being legalized for another family to live in.

“There’s permutations of creativity everywhere you look and all we’re really trying to do is put something before the public that is reasonable,” she said. 

She added that residents still have the option to apply for variances when needed.

At the April 9 meeting, Mr. Verity also said the issue presents a safety concern for first responders. 

“When there’s a response to a property, [responders] are going to the main building,” he said.

WITH TARA SMITH

Photo caption: Supervisor Scott Russell at Tuesday’s Town Board work session. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)

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