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Smithtown code change would allow buildings on steeper slopes

The Smithtown Town Board plans to hold two public hearings Feb. 25 to consider changes to zoning and building ordinances, including allowing development on more steeply sloped land.

Town board members in August voted to raise what’s known as the slope threshold, allowing the construction or alteration of structures at least 10 feet from a slope steeper than 25 percent. The old code limited such development to slopes of 15 percent.

In making the change, the board didn’t amend the corresponding definition of environmentally sensitive lands to reflect the increase in allowable slope.

“The part that was amended allows you to build closer to a steep slope,” David Flynn, town planning director, said at a town board work session last month. The new amendment, he said, “would allow you to build on the steeper slope.”

Flynn said the proposal would make the slope part of the buildable land from a calculation standpoint and affect where builders can grade, clear or fill.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy said the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals frequently hears and grants residents’ requests for variances at the 25 percent threshold.

“If you go into the BZA, you get 25 like that,” McCarthy said with a snap of his fingers at the work session last month. “All we’re doing is making people go to another board and pay a bunch of fees, and it gets granted.”

Smithtown Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said officials analyzed similar codes in surrounding municipalities and found that many had the 25 percent slope threshold.

The town will also hold a public hearing on amending the building zone ordinance on floor area ratios in residential zones. “The idea is to allow more floor area per lot,” Flynn said in an interview.

The change will allow for the size of homes to increase in floor area from 25 percent to 30 percent of total lot size in quarter-acre zones and from 25 percent to 35 percent in one-sixth-acre zones, without needing variances, he said.

“Zoning is supposed to reflect the existing land use, and we did calculations and found that it wasn’t calibrated correctly in a couple of districts,” Flynn said.

Flynn also said the new floor area calculations will exclude attics as a way to encourage steeper-pitched roofs for aesthetic reasons.

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