Featured Story

ZBA to weigh in on proposal to convert storage building into living area for seasonal farm workers

Plans to convert an agricultural storage building to farm labor housing in Laurel will require a ruling by the town Zoning Board of Appeals.

The application, submitted by Norman Keil Nurseries, calls for converting a portion within an existing 10,000-square-foot building on Aldrich Lane into a 10-person living area to house seasonal farm workers.

According to town planner Brian Cummings, farm labor camps are a use permitted by special exception by the ZBA in agricultural zones. “These applications can run concurrently,” he said, noting that the applicants have already filed for the exception with the ZBA.

The application calls for converting a 1,600-square-foot area on the second floor into an area with five bunk beds, a kitchen and bathroom. It would require installation of a 1,000-gallon septic tank and leaching pool.

The owners originally received approval for the building in 2004 and it’s currently used for storage and office space. Southold Town holds development rights for most of the 39-acre site and five of those acres have development rights intact, Mr. Cummings said.

There are 20 existing parking stalls, which he said would not change since farm labor camps do not have a parking calculation within town code. In his report, Mr. Cummings notes that the occupants would largely be using farm vehicles to get around the property.

Planning Board members agreed to waive certain requirements, including key maps, since this is an agricultural application and will classify the project as a Type II action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, meaning no further review is required.

Board member Mary Eisenstein asked if the living quarters would be gender-specific, since the state Department of Health requires separate bathroom facilities for farm labor camps.

Attorney Michael Kimack said he does not think a second facility would be necessary. “I think his labor force is all pretty much male,” he said.

While a ZBA decision is pending, the Planning Board intends to accept the application and set a date for a public hearing at a future meeting.