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‘Fragile zone’ pitched for certain Shelter Island communities

COURTESY PHOTO |  The Town Board at Tuesday’s work session discussed a new housing restrictions for  certain communities.

The Town Board at Tuesday’s work session discussed a new housing restrictions for certain communities.

Protecting the availability of water and its quality by putting new zoning restrictions on certain areas of the Island was discussed at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.

A committee of Councilwoman Chris Lewis, Councilman Peter Reich and Town Attorney Laury Dowd presented a proposal for the new restrictions on a so-called “fragile zone ” overlaying the present Near Shore overlay zone.

The new restrictions are a way, the committee said, of achieving the goals of plentiful and fresh water through regulating the size of new house construction or reconstruction of existing houses.

The proposed areas for the fragile zone are Silver Beach, Menantic Peninsula, Tarkettle Peninsula, Shorewood, both Ram Island causeways and Little Ram Island.

Mr. Reich said that just over 50 percent of the Island is in the Near Shore overlay zone and that a proposed fragile zone would include about 20 percent of the Island.

According to the committee’s report, the identified areas have limited availability of water; restrictions on house size should be imposed to ensure the water availability of neighboring properties. The committee’s proposal, therefore, is to create the fragile zone where houses would be restricted to 10 percent of the lot area, or 20,000 square feet, whichever is less.

Ms. Lewis noted that even though discussion from her colleagues was needed and welcomed, the proposal is “an important step.”

Supervisor Jim Dougherty, noting that the fragile zone was an overlay, in certain areas, of the already existing Near Shore overlay, asked how the proposal affected “property rights.” He was also concerned that a new overlay would be “confusing to the people we work for.”

Mr. Dougherty took particular exception to the square footage formula. “I just wondered where you guys came up with the 20,000 square feet,” Mr. Dougherty said. “To me it’s almost a laugher. Tell me I’m wrong.”

Councilman Paul Shepherd said that scaling back the square footage would be more appropriate.

The board then discussed regulations in the prosed legislation, including well pumps, water tanks, cisterns, and pools. The discussion will be continued.

In other business, Mr. Dougherty reported that of the 13 wells tested by the United States Geological Survey on May 20, all were below May averages. Four wells — Menantic, Dering Harbor Village, Hay Beach and Shorewood — were at the lowest ever recorded in May.

Mr. Dougherty mentioned there would be a meeting of the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association (EESMA), which he chairs, in Southold on Wednesday. Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. asked if there would be any discussion on increased state funding for road work.

The EESMA sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo last month requesting a one-time jump in CHIPS funding, which is federal money that is distributed by the state Department of Transportation to local government for maintenance of local roads and bridges.

“Dead as a doornail,” Mr. Dougherty responded to Mr. Card.

“That’s unbelievable,” Mr. Card said.

“We’re pressing,” Mr. Dougherty said. “The money is there in Albany. It’s shameful.”

Mr. Card reiterated an offer to appear before the EESMA with other highway superintendents as a group to make their case.

Mr. Reich noted that a deadline of July 1 was approaching for residents to take out their winter moorings stakes or they would be in violation of town regulations.