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ZBA chairperson supports ‘floating’ recreational zoning

Southold Zoning Board of Appeals chairperson Leslie Weisman, along with other members of the community, expressed support for the creation of a “floating” recreational zoning district at a public hearing last Tuesday. The proposed local law would amend chapter 280 of the zoning code, allowing the Town Board to make a case-by-case determination on recreational facilities for which a genuine need has been established, regardless of underlying zoning.

The proposal essentially declared that additional health and wellness opportunities, where appropriate, would be provided to residents of Southold by way of the law, with fewer associated hurdles. 

Ms. Weisman, who spoke on behalf of the entire ZBA, said she and the other members “unanimously support the proposed legislation.” She cited a previous instance in which the ZBA called for hearings on a proposal for a large recreational facility, Sports East in Mattituck, but could not adequately evaluate the project based on merit — despite widespread public support — because the property was not correctly zoned for such a project.

“This, I believe gives the Town Board the kind of flexibility, another tool in the toolbox, to help our community achieve some of the things that are very difficult to achieve given the limited parcels in our town that would accommodate a major recreational facility,” Ms. Weisman said.

If the measure passes, applicants will still be subject to a set of qualifying criteria, including location relative to other recreational uses, available infrastructure, traffic impacts and impacts on any surrounding residential uses, Councilman Robert Ghosio said. Parcels would have to be at least three acres in size to qualify, and projects would have to meet specific lot coverage, dimensional setback and parking requirements. 

The hearing was closed and a determination by the Town Board is pending.

In September 2017, the ZBA upheld a notice of disapproval that the Sports East facility proposed in Mattituck did not meet the definition of a membership club. The use for the facility was not permitted in the proposed site’s zoning.

The Sports East proposal included various sport amenities, including nine tennis courts, an exercise trail, golf practice areas and an outdoor swimming pool on a wooded lot on Route 25.

Last March, the Town Board approved a bond resolution with an eye toward acquiring a 10.4-acre parcel in Peconic for a town recreational use, or possibly a site for the Sports East facility.

Supervisor Scott Russell said if the zoning district is adopted by the board, they intend to issue a request for proposal to solicit proposals on the property.

Photo caption: Southold ZBA chairperson Leslie Weisman speaks at last week’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)

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