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Brookhaven board votes unanimously to create zoning district to benefit boatyards

Brookhaven Town has established a new zoning district intended to help boatyards operate legally and expand their businesses.

The town board voted 7-0 on Thursday to create the Marine Commercial district, which officials said will allow about 15 shipyards mistakenly placed in the town's J2 business district — which allows fast-food restaurants but not marinas — to conform with town zoning codes.

In addition, marinas that secure town permits under the new code would be able to add side businesses such as restaurants and bait-and-tackle shops.

Supporters have said the new district will correct an outdated zoning code that forced some marinas to operate illegally and prevented them from expanding.

"Marinas should not be zoned in the middle of residential neighborhoods the same way as Chinese takeout restaurants," Councilman Dan Panico said.

Many marina owners had said that they supported the goals of the new zone, but added that they worried about unintended consequences, such as community opposition to restaurants at boatyards.

The law requires marina owners to seek special permits from the town planning board for additional businesses such as boat storage, restaurants and boat fueling stations.

Dave Kazmark, owner of Patchogue Shores marina in East Patchogue, said he welcomed the new district because it will help boatyards come into compliance with town codes.

“I do think it will help all marinas become legitimate,” he said. “It’s definitely going to add places where people can dock their boats legally.”

But Kazmark said it's "too early to tell" whether he could add a restaurant to his business. 

“If I wanted to do a restaurant, I’d have to talk to the neighbors first and get their support," he said. "It would always be a nice addition if you know that you can do that.”

Some civic leaders have questioned the law authorizing the new district, saying it was vague.

Jim Gleason, vice president of the East Moriches Property Owners Association, said before the town board vote that the law "still has some problems" and showed little concern for potential environmental impacts caused by marinas in town-designated "nitrogen protection zones," where land owners are required to reduce sewage emissions.

Gleason also said the law did not clearly define the criteria for allowing marinas to add amenities such as eateries. The East Moriches group has expressed concern for a local marina's plan to add a catering hall under the new zoning code.

"If the criteria aren't there or aren't strong enough, it's no use," Gleason told town board members. "Without criteria, an application can come in for a big catering hall, it's got to be granted."

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