Featured Story

Town contemplating a moratorium on large houses: Aims to set a limit on square footage

Town Attorney Stephen Kiely presented a draft of a proposal to the Town Board Tuesday that could establish a 12-month moratorium on special permits that would allow applicants to exceed 5,999 square feet of living space in one family dwellings.

The moratorium would allow time for completion of the Comprehensive Plan, which could change the Zoning Code. The moratorium on special permits would not only block new applications, but stop those in the pipeline from moving forward.

The town has been exploring ways to change the ease with which an increased number of applicants are able to get special permits for larger homes. Between 2018 and 2021, there were four applications for special permits, Mr. Kiely said.

In 2022, there were five applications for that single year. The draft refers only to residential units, but Shelter Island Association President Kim Noland suggested it should also apply to commercial structures.

Not yet incorporated in the draft is a penalty provision for violating a moratorium, Mr. Kiely said, promising to add that to another draft in advance of a public hearing on the proposal.

Elizabeth Galle, Shelter Island’s representative on the Suffolk County Planning Commission — which acts on municipal proposals — warned the Town Board the Commission has been vigilant about rejecting or limiting requests for moratoriums, believing they limit the rights of property owners.

At the same time, Ms. Galle acknowledged the effort underway to update the Comprehensive Plan might be a reason to approve the application. But even then, it’s been difficult for other communities seeking moratoriums of shorter duration to be approved.

Greenport has been involved in its own effort to gain Commission support for a six-month moratorium affecting businesses in three waterfront districts. Greenport officials are due back before the Commission on April 4 to try and gain approval.

Both municipalities can override a Commission rejection by a “super vote” of their own Town Board members. In each case, that would mean a vote of four of five members. The Suffolk County Planning Commission wouldn’t be able to discuss the application until May 3.

That will allow time for the Town Board to discuss the moratorium proposal and set a public hearing to occur prior to the Commission’s May meeting.