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Town Board on mega-houses: Water concerns to dictate decisions in future

Not for the first time, the issue of the size of houses dominated the Town Board’s discussion of two projects.

Although both gained approval at the board’s April 16 meeting, the decision was accompanied by a warning that in the future there needs to be action to protect water in environmentally sensitive areas.

Warnings about future decisions is something that has also been heard before with little or no action taken.

Councilman Albert Dickson led the discussion, asking his colleagues to act sooner rather than later to protect the Island’s water resources. He voted against one application while voting for the other. Both passed based on current requirements. But new applicants could face restrictions.

An application before the board at the meeting, listed as COKID, which is property owned by Katie Ford at 10 South Ram Island Drive, raised concerns.

The Demarest family, who live on property adjacent to Ms. Ford’s house, have vigorously fought to require changes in the location of a proposed accessory building, concerned that runoff water from the Ford property would cause erosion on the Demarest land.

In voting against the application, Mr. Dickson said the Big Ram property was one of several sub-watershed areas around the Island vulnerable to salt water intrusion.

He called it “an ever-worsening issue on the Island” as sea levels continue to rise. A few years ago, Martha’s Vineyard limited house sizes in environmentally sensitive areas, the councilman said.

“I think we can do the same” and should take such action “because things are certainly changing at a rapid pace.”

Councilmen Jim Colligan and Mike Bebon picked up on the theme, with Mr. Colligan saying it’s time to take a tough stand and move to limit house sizes.

Mr. Bebon, who chairs the Water Advisory Committee, noted its Groundwater Management Plan being proposed for adoption includes a recommendation to designate water protection areas.

Mr. Colligan also asked that in the COKID approval, there should be a requirement for remediation if the work on the Ford property results in increased problems on the Demarest property.

Supervisor Gerry Siller got the last word on the COKID application, noting that after a visit by Town Engineer Joe Finora to the Ford property and Mr. Finora’s review of the plans, the Town Board, under existing requirements, should approve. Mr. Finora concluded efforts to lessen runoff water from the Ford property would be reduced by the development plans.

The approval included action yet to come from the Zoning Board of Appeals. It involves a room in the proposed accessory building that would have to be removed if the ZBA decides it could be converted to use as a bedroom.

Matt Sherman of Sherman Engineering & Consulting has already agreed to remove the room from the plans if the ZBA declares it a potential bedroom. The Suffolk County Department of Health Services already approved the room once adjustments were made to convert an original planned full bathroom to a half bath.

An amendment to the approval requires pumping of the well on the Ford property be limited to a 5-gallon-per minute restriction.

That same amendment was added to the unanimous vote on a wetlands permit for a project at 5 Charlie’s Lane owned by Frances Bang and Gerry Gleich to replace an existing house on the site with a new house that infringes on the wetlands buffer.

The couple had to fight for their approval earlier after both the Planning Board and Conservation Advisory Council recommended their application be rejected. The couple hadn’t attended those meetings and first knew of concerns when they read about the turn-down recommendations.

It brought them to the Town Board earlier this month with their architect, Nicole Adams, and their environmental consultant, Daphne Vaughn of Surfside Environmental Planning. They convinced the Town Board they would adhere to recommendations for use of a low flow pump and large holding tank for water and would provide a water test at the site. Their approval was unanimous.