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Islip Town Eyes Raising Home Height Limits

Islip officials to hold public hearing on altering height of private dwellings located in certain flood zones to help meet federal guidelines.

Islip homeowners living in certain flood zones and looking to raise their homes to avoid flood damage from future severe storms may soon have less red tape to cut through.

The Town will hold a public hearing in the coming weeks to discuss altering the height of homes located in certain flood zones on the Flood Insurance Rate Map. A date for the public hearing has not been set.

At issue is the “tension” that exists between Federal Emergency Management Agency standards for how high homes along the coast must sit above land and Town limits on how high dwellings can be constructed.

“In flood zones, FEMA requires us to elevate houses, and if the Town’s height limits are not changed, variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals would be needed to pierce these limits,” said David Genaway, commissioner of Islip’s Planning Department. “This could create delays for homeowners looking to reconstruct.”

With residents in flood zones now repairing their flood damaged homes, Town officials are concerned that perhaps thousands of requests seeking a variance for the height of dwellings could bog down Town Hall. This could also delay the repair process for homeowners as well.

“The world is changing and we have to change with it,” said Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, Islip Town Councilwoman. “The Zoning Board of Appeals would have been inundated and we need to lift an additional burden off of people that have already been troubled by the storm.”

While specifics on the legislation are not yet available, Genaway said Islip officials are looking at raising the legal height of dwellings in flood zones that include V, VE, A and AE as noted on Flood Insurance Rate Maps. Those zones are located in areas closest to the Great South Bay and small inlet waterways such as rivers and canals.

Currently, the maximum height for a residential dwelling classified AAA, AA, A is 35 feet and those classified residential B and BAA is 28 feet. Properties within a flood zone are allowed an additional 2 feet in height depending on the zone in which they are located.

Andrew C January 09, 2013 at 12:16 AM
Why is there a limit in the first place?
Christopher D'Antonio January 09, 2013 at 06:14 AM
I think an explanation for it would be as a recognition of the customary scale of single family homes at the time of the ordinance's creation. Height restrictions are an old part of our town's zoning code which in one form or another date back to the 40s. They played a more important role then for our small lot zones, the 1/6 and 1/4 acre zones prior to the institution of FAR (Floor Area Ratio), however height regulations are still integral to our half acre and acre residentially zoned properties. Without height restrictions in these zones houses could be constructed within the required setbacks and Floor Area Ratios to be 5 stories tall for half acre parcels and 10 stories tall for acre parcels. Its doubtful that anyone living in these neighborhoods presently expects to see or build a house to such a height but were height restrictions not in place then everyone would be entitled to such a structure.
Christopher D'Antonio January 09, 2013 at 06:15 AM
*"...everyone living in our 1/2 acre or acre residential neighborhoods would be entitled to such a structure..."
Christopher D'Antonio January 09, 2013 at 06:17 AM
Additionally, though less remarkably, homeowners in our quarter acre residential neighborhoods would be entitled to 3 story homes where they are presently permitted up to 2.5.

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