Why must a shed be less than 9 feet tall? Why can't restaurants seat customers outdoors? And what exactly are "earth tones"?

Those were among the questions the chairwoman of Smithtown's Board of Zoning Appeals brought to the town board on Tuesday, suggesting that the town's zoning ordinances are "out of date" and "overly burdensome to the residents."

The zoning board rules on requests for variances from the town zoning code. The town board must approve changes to the code after drafting amendments and holding a public hearing.

During a half-hour town board work session, Adrienne Giannadeo ticked off a laundry list of town rules that she said should be eased. Among them: restrictions on sheds, swimming pools, fences, archways, paving and porticos, and limitations on business signage and outdoor dining areas.

And exterior building colors. Zoning board members, Giannadeo said, were not sure whether red bricks qualify as earth tones, which town code requires in some instances.

"At least give us some idea what 'earth tones' are," Giannadeo said. "I'd like some further definition on that.

Town planning director Frank DeRubeis said most colors meet town code, "as long as it's not glossy or iridescent."

Giannadeo said the town should loosen the 9-foot height restriction on sheds in some residential areas, because most sheds are a few inches taller. She proposed raising the limit to 10 feet.

"It's a burden to the homeowner to come in and pay for the variances," she said.

Most town board members appeared to agree with many of Giannadeo's recommendations, saying the rules force people to hire attorneys for minor zoning issues.

"To make people go through the burden of [obtaining] a variance . . . to me, it doesn't make sense," Councilman Thomas McCarthy said.

But Supervisor Patrick Vecchio questioned whether the zoning board was overstepping its authority by recommending code changes.

"I don't know that the Board of Zoning Appeals should be making policy," he said.

Vecchio agreed, however, with some of Giannadeo's ideas, such as easing restrictions on outdoor dining. Eateries in some cases must seek special permits to seat customers outside.

Councilman Edward Wehrheim, interviewed Wednesday, said such rules discourage commercial development.

"Commercial entities are difficult enough, and if you have to deal with a lot of restrictions . . . the commercial entity may not locate to Smithtown," he said.

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