ZBA calls for expanded guidelines on reviewing all business changes

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Architect Michael Rubin (left) showed plans for expansion of Veronique Boucher’s house at 8 Sylvan Place to ZBA members, from left, Patricia Shillingburg, Pieter Ruig, Doug Matz and William Johnston III at a public hearing February 29.

Reviewing the Town Board’s new proposal for clarifying the zoning code’s rules on pre-exisiting, non-conforming businesses, Zoning Board of Appeals members agreed last week to urge the Town Board to go further and spell out what changes at any business, conforming or not, should trigger a ZBA review.

ZBA Chairman Doug Matz raised the issue last week at the ZBA’s February 29 meeting, saying town code should be “black and white” in making clear what changes to commercial properties must be reviewed, whether or not the properties are conforming or non-conforming to their zoning districts.

He cited seating plans and parking as possible changes the board should review even if the Suffolk County Department of Health Services allows for expansion. He said the town should be making the final decision and the code should be specific about what triggers the decision-making review process.

Town Attorney Laury Dowd encouraged the ZBA to make its position known when the Town Board conducts a public hearing on Friday, March 16, at 4:50 p.m. on its latest proposals to amend rules for non-conforming businesses operating in residential areas.

The rules would make it clear that pre-existng, non-conforming businesses may not expand beyond their own properties to new parcels. They also would make clear that a use would be considered to have been discontinued after a year of inactivity. Owners could seek a two-year renewal, however, to maintain their business’s pre-existing, non-conforming status for up to 10 years.

She noted that the Town Board’s draft amendment had been 18 months in the making but is still not as specific as Mr. Matz might like.

“When businesses are expanding, there does have to be public discussion,” ZBA member Patricia Shillingburg said.


Shelter Island Heights neighbors aren’t complaining but the ZBA has concerns about parking if Veronique Boucher is allowed to construct an addition to her house at 8 Sylvan Place.

Ms. Boucher and her architect, Michael Rubin, are asking for variances that would allow for 54.5-percent lot coverage when 40 percent is the limit set in the code. The applicant also needs front, side and rear yard setback variances to accommodate first and second floor additions to the structure, to relocate an air conditioning unit and to provide pathways and terraces on the property.

Ms. Boucher, a part-time Island resident, said she plans to live on the Island full-time and bring her elderly mother to live with her. The house is relatively small and Ms. Boucher said she needs additional space to provide herself with a second floor master bedroom and a studio where she can continue her work as a graphic artist.

Mr. Rubin said french drains would be installed to ensure that rainwater doesn’t sheet off the structure onto neighboring properties. He also said a Lenox air conditioner that is very quiet would be installed.

What concerned ZBA member William Johnston III was that the property provides only one small parking space in an area where summer parking is at a premium. While Ms. Boucher insisted she barely has room to park her Mini Cooper, much less make room for a second vehicle, Mr. Johnston remained firm about wanting to see a redesign that would provide a second on-site space.

“We have to consider your needs but we have to consider when you’re not in this house anymore,” Mr. Matz said. He asked Mr. Rubin for revised drawings that more clearly show why there’s a need for 54-percent lot coverage when the original application called for only 43 percent. It was unclear if Mr. Rubin would make design changes to try to create a second parking space.

In a letter to the board, the Heights Property Owners Corporation didn’t address the parking issue but supported the second floor addition and necessary bump out to provide a staircase.

A neighbor, Wade Badger, supported the application. Others who want to weigh in have until the end of business on Wednesday, March 14, to submit comments in writing to the ZBA.

Similarly, those interested in commenting on a proposal from Thomas and Suzannah Carrier of 17 Spring Garden Avenue have until March 14 to submit written comments. The Carriers want a special permit to alter their non-conforming structure by building a second-story living area over the dwelling.

Architect Russell Glover said he personally had notified 26 neighbors of the expansion plans and only one person — Mr. Badger — was on hand to comment. He had no objection to the expansion, but questioned whether, from a safety standpoint, the chimney was high enough above the roof. Mr. Glover assured him it met code and said if there was any problem with existing drawings, he would assure changes would be made.

Mr. Badger also questioned the aesthetic look of the roofing, saying it appeared “massive” at the back. Mr. Glover said he could have matched the peaks of the front and rear roofs but that would have resulted in different pitches. When the construction is finished, it will look like a typical Victorian roof, the architect said. Ms. Shillingburg noted that the town doesn’t have an architectural review committee that could recommend changes based on aesthetics.


The ZBA approved the application from Lear Ruig Partners for a variance to create a property line at its horse farm off Ram Island Road with storage buildings within five feet of the rear yard line instead of the required 15 feet. The result is to convert three lots at 25, 33 and 41 Ram Island Road into two lots, one of which has a conservation easement held by the Peconic Land Trust.


The ZBA delayed a decision on the application from Robert and Nina Ronzoni to allow an air conditioner/heat pump and a patio on their property at 5 Clinton Avenue. A draft resolution approving the application was prepared but the applicants requested an unspecified change that required reopening the hearing. The ZBA was scheduled to meet in special session Wednesday, March 7, at 5 p.m. to consider the change.