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Mixed reactions to proposed ‘fragile’ zone

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Town officials have been meeting to discuss a code change that would create a new, environmentally protected zone.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Town officials have been meeting to discuss a code change that would create a new, environmentally protected zone.

When the Water Advisory Committee meets later this month, members will weigh in on a proposal to create a new, so-called “fragile” zone, or areas that are environmentally sensitive. This new fragile zone would overlay some current areas already protected, known as the “Near Shore Overlay District.”

The aim is to offer increased protection to the aquifer from the impact of development in these stressed areas, according to WAC member Ken Pysher.

Mr. Pysher distributed a proposed amendment to the town zoning code to WAC members to give them time to review it in advance of the October 20 meeting.

The proposed fragile zone would include:
• Silver Beach properties south of West Neck Road and Bootleggers Alley
• Menantic Peninsula properties south of Hagar Road and Margarets Drive
• Tarkettle Peninsula properties south of South Midway
• Shorewood south of Heron Lane up to Mabels Creek
• All properties in the Causeway zone
• Little Ram Island south of Ram Island Drive

The listed areas are considered fragile because they have limited water availability.

“Since water is a shared resource, rules are needed to ensure that water use on one property does not harm the availability of water for use on neighboring properties,” the proposed legislation states.

There could be restrictions affecting the square foot living area that could be developed on such sites; limits to the horsepower draw on well pumps; and installation of a 100 gallon pressurized water tank for any residence with more than four bedrooms.

There could also be restrictions on swimming pools, spas or similar structures which would have to be supplied with trucked-in water.

Pre-existing properties would be grandfathered until there is reconstruction of 50 percent or more of existing structures.

If the legislation is adopted, any application for relief would require the Zoning Board of Appeals to apply standards applicable by law to a use variance.

The Planning Board, which was the first to review the proposal at the request of the Town Board, submitted a memo stating that the proposal is “an inequitable application of the overlay that has the potential to include properties that do not share the characteristics that the overlay is trying to protect.”

The planners questioned the town’s expertise in regulating areas entrusted to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS), which has the engineering and technical knowledge to assess the need for regulation.

Planning Board member Emory Breiner had previously sent the Town Board a response from Jason Hime of the SCDHS indicating it opposed regulating well pump horsepower.

Planning Board members also questioned the expense to meet some of the requirements and further stated that any attempt to limit ZBA variances to new regulations would not hold up in court.

“The current proposal appears to be overly restrictive and partly arbitrary to be imposed on a few neighborhoods of the island,” the Planning Board statement concluded.