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‘Pyramid’ vs. ‘Proportionality’ at Shelter Island Town Board meeting

Pyramid? Proportionality? Both?

Those are the questions following Tuesday’s discussion about legislation aimed at controlling house sizes on the Island.

So-called ‘pyramid’ legislation is designed to limit the height of new structures.

But Deputy Supervisor Meg Larsen reiterated her belief that a pyramid law would only have limited effect. If you use  the concept of “proportionality,” you don’t need a pyramid law, she said. Her method would deal with the entire density of a structure in relation to a lot size able to accommodate it, and not just the shape of the property related to the structure.

Councilman Benjamin Dyett said he likes the proportionality plan, but wondered if it might be wise to join both methods. Town Attorney Stephen Kiely wanted to know whether the votes are there to move ahead with the pyramid law.

Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m only looking for the best solution,” Mr. Dyett said, offering to work on a proportionality law with Ms. Larsen, who said pushing through a pyramid law and possibly revoking it later in favor of proportionality would create a mess that later would have to be cleaned up.

What about the two of them together? Councilman Albert Dickson asked. Ms. Larsen said she believed if a law dealing with proportionality were in place, the pyramid law wouldn’t be needed, and the pyramid law would create a lot of nonconforming structures, she said.

The Board’s agenda for April 15 calls for setting a public hearing on the companion legislation to substitute area variances decided by the Zoning Board of Appeals in place of the current practice of the Town Board issuing special permits for larger houses. Ms. Brach-Williams had previously favored setting a public hearing on the pyramid law as well.

Ms. Larsen said she would be open to setting both for May 6 public hearings since input from the community would help define the direction people prefer.

At the same time, Ms. Larsen wanted feedback from General Manager of the Heights Property Owners Corporation Stella Lagudis, who weighed in on the effect of the pyramid law on that area. She noted that in the Heights, almost every application in the lower Heights area has to go before the ZBA for its action, and that works.

But in the upper part of the Heights, where many lots are larger, a pyramid law or a law based on overall proportionality could be useful. At the same time, what is a larger parcel today could be subdivided tomorrow, so there has to be something to ensure a subdivided lot could still accommodate the existing larger house.

Mr. Dickson said there’s precedent for using a covenant that would prohibit subdividing a parcel that has a large home.

Mr. Kiely said he will discuss the alternatives with Ms. Brach-Williams to determine how she wants to proceed on setting public hearings prior to the next Board meeting.