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When too big is not best — Board debates regulating the size of houses


When is a swimming pool and a house next to it too big?

That question dominated a discussion at Tuesday’s Town Board work session when members debated whether size matters when it comes to development on large lots.

The direct issue involves a proposal to place a 75- by 22-foot swimming pool on a 3 acre site with a nine-bedroom house and multiple bathrooms.

The specifics of the application from Little Ram Oaks had members at odds on whether to intercede, concerned that a project so large could put a strain on water resources in an area already affected by a number of large homes pulling on a limited aquifer supply.

Councilmen Jim Colligan and Albert Dickson favored restricting what could be built on such a site while Councilman Paul Shepherd expressed mixed feelings about the application.

Mr. Shepherd favors government restraint, suggesting that restricting the size of a pool is impinging on the rights of the individual. But he also expressed concerns about a pool filled with trucked in water from off-Island putting a strain on the town.

Tuesday’s discussion was a follow up to the application that had been addressed the previous Friday at a regular Town Board meeting.

“You have to have some reasonable standard,” Mr. Colligan said, calling for some restrictions.

When will the board show “some spunk” and say “enough is enough?”

Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams noted that turning down an application to build such a pool could lead to subdividing the site and building smaller pools and structures that would have the same aggregate effect on water resources in the area. But her colleagues saw that as unlikely.

The issue of massive houses and huge pools “needs to be seriously addressed,” Mr. Dickson reiterated, adding,“Are we going to do things that are hard?”

“Do we have the political will to do something?” Mr. Colligan asked.

The board agreed to speak further with the applicant before making any decisions.

In other business: The board agreed to establish a one-year agreement with the Village of Dering Harbor for snow removal at a cost of $3,000. After this winter, the agreement will be reexamined to determine whether it remains a viable option and to look at actual costs to determine if the $3,000 fee is appropriate.

The board will also be examining a new proposal affecting grants Shelter Island is providing to residents to install nitrogen-reducing septic systems. In line with Suffolk County, the board wants to provide the financial assistance, while ensuring that it doesn’t result in expanding development.

Accordingly, a new regulation could impose a three-year limit on the time between a property owner getting a town grant and when the owner might seek to expand building on the lot.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. will draft a proposed regulation for Town Board consideration.