06/14/13 7:00pm
06/14/2013 7:00 PM

The latest Plum Island zoning draft does not include suggestions made by environmental groups, but town officials said the document addresses those issues and additional guidelines were not needed.

While supporting the direction the town’s taking, representatives from eight environmental organizations echoed the same two concerns during a Town Board hearing last month. The groups called for eliminating the possibility of installing solar energy panels in the proposed conservation district, and increasing the total acreage of that zone.

Officials believe the current wording, which only permits the panels as an accessory use, will achieve the town’s preservation goal and provide flexibility to explore the use of alternative energy on the island should zoning move forward.

The 840-acre island is federally owned and is not currently subject to local planning regulations. The town’s efforts to create new zoning categories for the island were prompted by the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to replace the facility off the tip of Orient Point with a new $1 billion animal disease research facility in Manhattan, Kan. If that project progresses, the Plum Island lab would be closed and the property sold to a private investor.

The zoning is a precautionary measure aimed at preventing the construction of condominiums, “McMansions” or even a casino if the island is sold. The pending zoning would create three separate zones reflecting current uses as a research center with its own harbor and considerable open space.

The latest draft allows the construction of solar collectors on 120 acres within the proposed conservation district. The environment organizations believe this type of construction works against preservation and suggested either eliminating or reducing the acreage on which solar generators would be permitted in order to minimize the impact on vegetation and wildlife.

Since any site plan for the island, including those with solar panels, would be subject to approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, the town believes there is no need to an outright ban, Supervisor Scott Russell said.

The groups also called for increasing the acreage of the proposed conservation district and expanding that district by 37 acres to include land surrounding the Plum Island Lighthouse and acreage northeast of the existing lab.

Planning Department director Heather Lanza said much of that area would be protected by the current town code. Mr. Russell said the zoning is intended to protect both the ecosystem and the research facility, a large source of local employment.

To avoid the need for lot area variances in the future, officials included changes to the minimum lot area for the conservation and research districts. The revised proposal reduces the minimum lot area for the research district from 150 acres to 125 acres and trims the minimum lot area for the conservation district from 500 acres to 350 acres.

The Town Board is expected Tuesday to set a date for the next public hearing on the zoning.

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09/14/12 5:00pm
09/14/2012 5:00 PM

Land preservation has long been a top priority in Southold Town, and residents will have a chance to weigh in this week on shaping the town’s land preservation goals for the years ahead.

The town will hold two community meetings on the land preservation chapter of its new comprehensive plan. The first will be held Saturday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m. at the East Marion firehouse. The second will be held Thursday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Peconic Lane Community Center.

The draft of the chapter is available now on the town website at southoldtownny.gov and at libraries throughout town.

The chapter touts the fact that the town has already protected 25 percent of its total land area using methods ranging from the purchase of farmland development rights to the outright purchase of property to the private preservation of land.

According to the draft, 41 percent of the town is already developed and 7 percent is wetlands, leaving just 26 percent of the land area unprotected and undeveloped.

The remaining acreage, about 8,950 acres, includes 5,755 acres of farmland and 1,904 acres of building lots, which total 2,394 parcels.
One of the primary goals of the comprehensive plan is to retain at least 8,000 agricultural acres, or about 80 percent of the land that is currently being farmed.

The plan recommends a variety of approaches to achieve that goal, including promotion of conservation subdivisions, where more land is preserved than is required by the code, and the use of Agricultural Planned Development Districts, a special zoning area created on a farm to allow the farmer to sell development rights one at a time.

The draft chapter calls for the town to “design both standard and conservation subdivisions involving farmland to enhance farming and minimize potential incompatibility with residential neighbors.”

The draft also calls for the town to consider increasing the mandatory open space percentage for subdivisions on land over sensitive aquifers.

A suggestion to zone Plum Island to “ensure that the natural and economic resources are protected, along with the public health, safety and welfare” is also included in the plan.

In addition, the draft chapter calls for the town to more stringently monitor its conservation easements to ensure that landowners are not incorrectly using parcels for which the development rights have been sold.

Another suggestion is that the town do more to manage preserved lands it already owns, including maintaining trails, creating management plans for preserves and creating a volunteer program for preserve maintenance.

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07/15/11 1:36pm
07/15/2011 1:36 PM


After a poorly attended first meeting two weeks ago on Southold’s new comprehensive plan, residents packed a lively second session Thursday night to discuss what’s so special about Southold, and what should be done to keep it that way.

The latest draft chapter addresses Southold’s community character, paying special attention to the town’s scenic vistas and historic, natural and cultural resources.

Residents who turned out Thursday night broke into five discussion groups, each generating a number of suggestions for what more the town could do to preserve its character.

Architect Glynnis Berry, whose group discussed preserving scenic resources and enacting design standards for new buildings, said her group wanted to “not just preserve, but reverse” the loss of scenic areas.

She said that Mattituck, for example, looks much like a strip mall, but the character of the community could be changed to make the hamlet seem more like the village on the edge of the water that it is.

Among the changes her group proposed was narrowing Route 48 to two lanes between the start of the four-lane highway at Cox Neck Lane and Wickham Avenue, providing a safer, more direct conduit for people to walk across Route 48 from Love Lane to the Mattituck Inlet. Her group also suggested adding well-designed parks, with pushcart vendors and a reason for people to meet there, as opposed to parks with Victorian gazebos set in areas where people would not naturally congregate, as is the case with Southold’s Silversmith’s Corner.

Ms. Berry added that her group was opposed to “form-based” codes that provide cookie-cutter templates for communities, when codes should be designed on a street-by-street basis that takes into account the scale and proportion of properties in existing communities.

“Southampton Village has design protocols based on what’s there,” she said. “Every street is different. With a form-based code, it becomes monotonous, like Disneyland.”

The community character chapter also calls for the town’s Landmark Preservation Commission to be given more authority over preserving the town’s cultural resources, including historic buildings and a set of 23 mile markers along Southold’s roads that were placed there during the time Benjamin served as the colonial postmaster.

Commission chairman Jim Grathwohl said he believes the group already does many of the things the plan suggests. He urged town planners to take steps to make Southold a certified local government in a preservation program run by the National Parks Service and the New York State Office of Historic Preservation. If Southold received that designation, he said, the town could go about designating historic structures and would be able to limit how the buildings can be altered. Southold must rely on homeowners to request that their properties be designated as historic landmarks.

Town principal planner Mark Terry’s group discussed managing existing scenic resources. He said a major concern of his group was the debate over the impact greenhouses have on scenic vistas. While the public does not consider them a part of traditional agriculture, which contributes to scenic vistas, greenhouses are becoming more and more necessary for farmers to run competitive businesses.

“Is a greenhouse appropriate or necessary? There’s a huge reactionary discussion. It comes up again and again,” Mr. Terry said.

He said his group also felt it was important that planners take into consideration the views of land as seen from the water.

06/30/11 3:00pm
06/30/2011 3:00 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Sunrise lights up the beach at Orient Harbor

Tonight, June 30, Southold residents will get a chance to weigh in on what’s so important about the character of the community they call home.

Town officials will be taking comment on the second chapter of the town’s new comprehensive plan at the town Recreation Center on Peconic Lane in Peconic beginning at 5 p.m.

The draft chapter, available on the town’s website and at local libraries, documents the town’s history and how it shaped the landscape of the town today.

“The bucolic quality of the town is anchored by the scenic quality, culture and history of the built environment, landscapes and waterscapes. The importance of preserving these qualities is paramount in maintaining the quality of life within the town,” planners wrote in an introduction to the chapter.

The chapter lists the town’s scenic quality, including the vistas along the state-designated scenic byways of Routes 25 and 48 as one of Southold’s most important economic and social assets. Planners would like to hold community meetings to identify and prioritize more scenic resources by 2013, and then develop plans to manage those resources through the zoning code.

The chapter also calls for a 20 percent reduction in hardened shoreline structures and consideration of implementing Suffolk County guidelines for greenhouses on land where the development rights have been sold, and for more stringent environmental reviews of incompatible structures proposed in scenic byways.

The chapter also calls for more town involvement in the state transportation department’s Adopt-a-Road program and coordination with the county in planting the medians of Route 48 with wildflowers.

The town’s 1,500 regionally important historic buildings are also highlighted in the chapter, which urges the town to give its Historic Preservation Commission more authority to prevent demolition of historic buildings and to delineate new historic districts. It also includes an in-depth assessment of what can be done to strengthen the character of each of the hamlet centers, such as tying together the two shopping districts in Mattituck, developing traffic calming measures in Cutchogue and ensuring that the Southold, East Marion and Orient post office remain in the hamlet centers.

A complete draft of the chapter is available at http://southoldtown.northfork.net/Planning/Southold%202020/2020PubComment.htm.

A second public input session is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14 at 7 p.m. in the town’s Human Resource Center on Pacific Street in Mattituck.