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Zoning changes — not so fast

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Pamela Demarest appealed to the Town Board on March 22 not to change its zoning code, folding AA properties into the A designation that would affect side and front yard setbacks.

It’s back to the drawing board for a resolution aimed at changing AA zoning on Shelter Island to A zoning.

What appeared to be a settled matter weeks ago, with the Town Board’s inclination to take no action, has become a full-blown issue that resulted in a resolution to eliminate the AA residential zone. But after hearing from a few speakers at Friday’s Town Board meeting, members decided revisions were needed and a new public hearing will be held on April 12.

Property owner Pamela Demarest objected to the change, suggesting it could open a “Pandora’s box” of unforeseen consequences.

Side and front yard setbacks vary between the two. In the AA zone, side yard setbacks are 30 feet, while the A zone allows only 25 feet without a variance. The front setbacks in the AA zone are 50 feet and in the A zone, 40 feet.

Ms. Demarest told the board she fears the change would result in congestion. She called the change “unnecessary” and didn’t want to see encroachment on her property or that of others.

At the outset of the debate several weeks ago there was a question of how many properties could be affected and if a property owner in an AA zone could seek a variance on setbacks from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Another concern is the existence of maps that differ.

Assessor Craig Wood earlier had told the Town Board only a few properties could be affected, but Friday,he said a more careful study showed there could be 80 to 120 parcels affected.

Heights Property Owners Corporation (HPOC) General Manager Stella Lagudis said with existing zoning, the only opportunity she has to represent the HPOC on many projects is through ZBA hearings.

Ms. Lagudis expressed doubt that the law as it stands is so broken that it merits change.

While the ZBA has had no strong opinion, it was the Planning Board that raised the issue of changing the zoning code.

A revised proposal will be forthcoming as a legal advertisement in advance of the April 12 hearing. The proposal appears to include an opportunity for a property owner to show proof that his or her lot existed prior to 1973, when the map was drawn by Suffolk County, in order not to be affected by any change.

The Town Board repealed two parts of the zoning code dealing with building permits and certificates of occupancy because they are addressed elsewhere in the code.

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