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Planning Board waives tree requirement for subdivision; discusses definition of pool houses

The Southold Town Planning Board voted Monday to waive a town code requirement for the planting of trees related to a conservation subdivision application from Big Bing LLC & Little Bing LLC.

The applicants propose to divide 84.7 acres on Oregon Road in Cutchogue into six residential lots and two agricultural lots, saying they plan to preserve 75% of the land. The property consists mostly of farmland and the applicant does not wish to plant trees in the middle, so the board will instead collect a fee of roughly $8,000, the value of the 23 trees that would otherwise be required. 

“The code requires trees to be put in,” attorney Pat Moore, who represents the applicant, said in an interview Tuesday. “[But] we would have the option of designing the subdivision with trees, or paying this fee that goes into the town fund. We’re leaving it to the homeowner to value their parcel. They can decide that when they begin developing and creating their landscaping plan.” 

The Planning Board is also charging the applicant a $21,000 park and playground fee because a park, which is a customary feature of such subdivisions, cannot be properly installed at the location.

It is at the town’s discretion exactly how that money is used, but it is generally allocated for parks and playgrounds and recreational-type facilities, Ms. Moore said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Planning Board member Mary Eisenstein said she feels that allowing pool houses and cabanas only on properties with inground pools is unfair. Zoning Board of Appeals chairperson Leslie Weisman first brought forth a proposal to amend town code to include a formal definition of the term “pool house” on April 9. After the ZBA received an overwhelming number of pool house applications, Ms. Weisman said that clearly defining what can and cannot exist within a pool house — considered an “accessory structure” under codes in neighboring towns — would make it easier for property owners to understand and comply with the town’s guidelines.

Currently, the installation of above-ground pools is also being restricted under the definition. 

“I know the argument was that an above-the-ground pool doesn’t last as long as an inground pool but, I mean, why preclude that? Because then you’re left, if it does disintegrate, then you’re left with a small little building.”

Ms. Eisenstein said that part of the definition excludes people who choose to put in an above-ground pool. 

“You’re excluding an entire population,” she said.

Town attorney Bill Duffy said the intention is to clearly define what a pool house/cabana can be and to prevent it from becoming a second dwelling.

Ms. Eisenstein also put forth an argument for allowing indoor showers, which, according to the most current definition, are not being allowed in pool houses. She said that restriction seems too limiting, as there will be times individuals may wish to exit their pool on a wet, cold day, rinse the chlorine off their bodies and change — but will not be able to because they cannot install indoor showers in their pool houses. Outdoor showers are, however, permitted.

“I just wonder about the restrictiveness,” she said. Board member James Rich agreed with Ms. Eisenstein, saying he believes it is “prohibitive not to allow an indoor shower.” The opposing argument made was that above-ground pools not only disintegrate very easily, but are also very easy to put up and take down, leading to situations in which an individual might have a perfectly certified pool house and no pool. 

The board’s comments were entered into the file for review and a public hearing on the matter was set for Tuesday, May 21.

Photo caption: Southold Planning Board members at Monday’s meeting. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)

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