The question of regulating how big a house should be on Shelter Island was on the agenda again at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.
In a free form discussion, the future look, culture and ambiance of the Island was touched on.
Councilman Paul Shepherd posed questions he and his colleagues were still short of answering. “Are we trying to keep things the same?” Mr. Shepherd asked. “Are we trying to manage the maximums? What is it we’re really trying to accomplish?”
The board has had several discussions on the issue, inspired by weeks members spent examining special permit applications for a large house to be built on Charlie’s Lane by Brad Tolkin.
When the board was reviewing the applications amid heated protests about the size of the project from some neighbors, what enabled Mr. Tolkin to prevail — in addition to compromises he made to scale back the original plan — was an agreement by the board to look at the zoning code with an eye to implementing some restrictions affecting future construction.
Large houses dotting the Island and changing the nature of life here has stayed current as a community concern, Councilwoman Chris Lewis said. Islanders have “strong feelings about us limiting house sizes,” she added. “We should find a formula, and fined one soon.”
Mr. Shepherd asked which way the board should proceed — address the overall square footage of a house or the percentage of the lot covered by the structure.
Councilmen Peter Reich and Ed Brown agreed the board should look at both possibilities to write new regulations.
Mr. Reich noted that the town code “is totally silent on house size other than the fact that if it’s more than 6,000-square feet you need a permit.”
The board than discussed the idea that square footage can be deceiving, since a one story house, as Mr. Reich pointed out, could have 3,000 square feet of living space and a finished basement of the same size.
Ms. Lewis said she has heard from many people that the visual impact of a house is an important concern. Mr. Shepherd said that way of thinking could lead to a “neighborhood review board.”
“We’re a population that’s 57 years old on average,” Mr. Shepherd added. “We’re getting toward the old and cranky stage. People don’t want to change.”
“Do we have a focus here?” Supervisor Jim Dougherty asked, winding up the conservation.
Ms. Lewis said the next time issue is on the agenda the board should zero in “on house size or proportionality to the lot it sits on. We have to pick something we’re going to focus on.”