Featured Story

Dering Harbor Board considers trimming ‘living fences’ from zoning code

MARTIN BURKE PHOTO Dawn breaking over Dering Harbor.
MARTIN BURKE PHOTO Dawn breaking over Dering Harbor.

After considerable go-round, the Village of Dering Harbor officially licensed a row of holly trees planted along the backyard of a property that has been at the center of the community’s debate over hedges and other forms of “living fences.”

Alfredo Paredes was present for a round of applause from those assembled at Village Hall on Saturday, December 2 when, near the end of a long meeting, the mayor and trustees voted 4-0 (with one member absent) in favor of the license application.

The decision ended at least one portion of a dispute that had pitted Mr. Paredes and his spouse, Brad Goldfarb, against the village despite the vocal support of numerous residents.

The board set aside for now a decision on whether to approve the couple’s request to plant a privet hedge along the remaining borders of their property overlooking Dering Harbor on Shore Road. That decision will take place after the board gives further consideration to whether and to what degree the village should regulate hedges and other fences “living in the form of vegetation.”

While the meeting was sparsely attended, many residents wrote to ask the board to keep some provision for governing the installation and maintenance of hedges and other living fences.

Currently, the local zoning code describes fences as “structures, or living in the form of vegetation.” In the proposal under consideration only structural walls and fences would be subject to approval. The proposal also suggests removing the board of trustees from the process and instead having the Architectural Review Board handle decisions about fences.

A primary concern raised by residents was that the village would be left with no meaningful way to regulate hedges, other than a separate law that restricts hedge heights to 3 feet within 25 feet of any intersection to allow a clear view of traffic while making turns.

In other business: The board discussed a letter from Mayor Colby to Shelter Island’s Water Quality Improvement Projects Board seeking funds to offset the cost of a new well head the village might install to correct problems associated with an older well where saltwater intrusion dramatically increased this summer.

Trustee Karen Kelsey asked why the mayor had taken this action independently when the board had decided take a “comprehensive approach to water, water usage and wells.” She noted that Trustee Patrick Parcells had been designated by the board to coordinate those efforts and asked Mr. Parcells if he had been aware that a letter was being sent to the town seeking funds.

“I learned of it when I read the agenda,” Mr. Parcells replied.

Mr. Colby defended the action, stating there had been a discussion of the proposed new well head during at least two meetings of the board and there was a year end deadline for applications for public grants for water quality improvement projects.

“This is an approach we can and should take advantage of,” Mr. Colby said.

When asked by the village attorney whether the board had approved any proposal to drill a new wellhead, Mr. Parcells responded, “The short answer is, we have not approved this.”
Deputy Mayor Betsy Morgan credited the mayor for his creative approach but agreed with Ms. Kelsey that the village needed to act in a coordinated manner.

Mr. Parcells then updated the board on the status of a project to replace the village’s aging water tank, as required by the Suffolk County Department of Health. Under the previous administration, the village won a grant and low-interest loan from New York State to cover the majority of costs associated with building a new tank in the same location.

But the current board identified an anticipated funding shortfall of about $140,000 and has been investigating whether it makes sense to forego the state funding and find a less expensive way to meet the health department’s requirements.

At Saturday’s meeting, Mr. Pareclls presented a preliminary report on the feasibility of using underground hydropneumatic tanks instead of a gravity-driven stand tank. He said he would post a report on the Village website so all residents could have access to the information.

Ms. Morgan said the committee to rename Shore Road (to end confusion with the Shore Road that runs along Crescent Beach) would be sending out a survey to determine which names were favored by residents. The board discussed a need to develop official email addresses for the trustees and mayor, who are using personal email accounts to communicate with one another and with residents.