Southold vote precludes Plum Island housing

Plum Island is seen in an aerial photo

Plum Island is seen in an aerial photo on May 20, 2010. (Credit: Doug Kuntz )

The Southold Town Board unanimously approved zoning for Plum Island Tuesday that would prevent residential development on the island.

The zoning would allow laboratory research to take place on 125 acres where the current Plum Island Animal Disease Center sits. But the balance of the roughly 840-acre island will be zoned as a conservation district, if and when the federal government sells the island.

Only a nature preserve, public parks, museums at current historic structures and solar energy generators with special approval by Southold would be allowed.

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Housing, other than that associated with the research facility, would not be allowed.

"Plum Island will not become Plum Island Estates," Supervisor Scott Russell said.

The federal government is looking to close the Plum Island Animal Disease Center around 2019 and sell the island, which has been the center for the country's animal disease research since 1954.

The sale of Plum Island is supposed to help offset the cost of a new, higher-security animal disease research facility being built in Kansas. But environmentalists, other federal agencies and members of New York's congressional delegation have said a more thorough environmental review is needed before any sale as the island has become home to several endangered species.

The General Services Administration, which is coordinating the island's auction, has said it would not comment about the local government zoning.

Russell said the town will now focus on keeping the 400 jobs at the location "whether it's the federal government or the private sector." About 60 percent of the workers live on Long Island, with the rest commuting from Connecticut.

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