Top Stories 2022: Town Board approves legislation to restrict house size

Southold Town unanimously approved restrictions on house size back in October.

Local civic groups had been working on legislation with the town board for more than a year. A vote was postponed after a public hearing in June to accommodate resident concerns over roof restrictions.

The newly passed legislation applies to residential dwellings in the A-C, R-40, R-80, R-120, R-200 and R-400 zoning districts. Maximum square footage would be scaled based on lot area, which would be defined as buildable.

Lots beyond 200,000 square feet, or 4.59 acres, will permit homes as large as 10,100 square feet plus 1% of any additional lot area. Lots of up to 10,000 square feet, or a little less than a quarter acre, will allow homes up to 2,100 square feet.

New construction, reconstruction or improvement of any dwellings was limited by standards set in the new code or by a variance not to exceed the average gross floor area of dwellings in the immediate area, as determined by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Existing dwellings that exceed maximum square footage will be deemed nonconforming.

Farm Labor housing was exempt from gross floor area restrictions set in the legislation. Finally, buildings must be within the sky plane, unless the chief building inspector deems it not possible, in which case the overall height of a building or structure may not exceed the average height of adjacent parcels within 500 feet to each side.

At an October public hearing that lasted over an hour, civic leader and Southold resident Margeret Steinbugler cited the results of a survey which was conducted by North Fork Civics. Out of over 1,000 respondents, around 80% said they believed it is “very important” or “essential” for the town to focus on limiting house size in the next two years.

“The top two [concerns were] overdevelopment and cleanliness of the bays and Long Island Sound,” she said. “I think that requiring reasonably sized houses is very supportive of the residents’ concerns about over development.”