Shelter Island Town Board adopts rules to limit causeway development

PB PHOTO | A cheerful Town Board after a unanimous vote to adopt rules that create a special zone to limit development on the Ram Island causeway: From left, Councilwoman Chris Lewis, Town Attorney Laury Dowd, Councilman Glenn Waddington, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Councilman Peter Reich and Councilman Ed Brown.

After more than a year and a half of worry, work, discussion and debate, the Town Board on Friday adopted rules to limit development on the Ram Island causeway.

The rules set a minimum lot size of five acres, restrict house size to a maximum of 1,800 square feet depending on lot size, tightly limit clearing and bar tennis courts, swimming pools or any other accessory structures.

Their adoption ends a moratorium on causeway development that the Town Board imposed in March 2010 and extended twice as the rules were developed by Town Board members, the town attorney and citizen groups.

Under existing state and town wetlands regulations, there may be only one — or perhaps as many as three — parcels along the causeway for which owners might be able to obtain building permits. No applications are pending for any new structures there and none ever has been sought except for the house of Alexander Zagoreos, the only structure on the low-lying sandy isthmus along Ram Island Road.

Zoning Board and Town Board approvals for its reconstruction in 2010 after a fire in 2007 inspired a collective gasp of horror from the community, especially on Little Ram and Ram Island. Many people feared that the owners of other parcels would decide to build, ruining a nearly pristine coastal barrier environment that has been a scenic landmark for generations of Islanders and visitors.

Work to establish the moratorium come up with special rules to limit any construction on the causeway began in February 2010, as Councilwoman Chris Lewis reported to a packed audience in Town Hall Friday evening as the Town Board opened the first of three hearings on the causeway rules, which are encompassed in three amendments to the town code.

Board members credited Ms. Lewis as the key player who met with concerned citizens and Town Attorney Laury Dowd to hammer out the rules that were adopted Friday.