The Town of Oyster Bay announced a proposal for a local law to amend and update several provisions and definitions of certain zoning laws at a public board meeting on May 11. The discussion focused on the wording of certain outdated language and definitions within the zoning laws, which town officials asserted had provided legal loopholes to developers and businesses.
The law, if passed, would change the wording of numerous codes and laws within the town, such as the definitions of “Building, Accessory,” “Changeable Copy Sign,” and numerous others. It would also bring several codes up to date with state codes, such as for swimming pools, fences and walls, so that the language matches that of the state.
The town is also raising the threshold for fitness centers from 1,500 square feet to 3,500 square feet. This would mean private fitness centers or personal gyms under 3,500 square feet would be required to meet parking calculations and setbacks without the need for special use permits.
A large section of the changes concerns parking regulations and recommendations. One reason is to curtail car dealerships from using their employee parking lots to display inventory, which Leslie Maccarone, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, claimed had been an issue in the past.
“What we’ve noticed with car dealerships, they will come to us with their site plan, and show the required parking,” Maccarone explained. “However, they end up putting inventory in those required parking spaces, and we’ve had problems with various locations throughout the town, where then the employees park on the public streets.”
The proposed law was initially presented to the board as a draft on April 12, and remains effectively the same, with one exception. One section, which focused on the definition of gross floor area, included an amendment to the height of basement ceilings. It has been dropped from the draft. Officials explained that this section will instead be the subject of its own law, which is scheduled to be heard in June.
Thomas M. Sabellico, special counsel to the town attorney’s office, explained said the changes in the new law are necessary
“The proposed changes to the code include changes bringing the town code in alignment with New York state codes,” Sabellico said, “and other changes deemed necessary by the Department of Planning and Development.”
After the explanation of the proposed law, several residents and representatives of businesses spoke, expressing frustration with some aspects of the proposed law, which they claimed would harm businesses trying to work in good faith with the town.
Joseph Rutigliano, of Old Westbury, a developer in Connecticut and New Jersey, said he was speaking as a private citizen, since he does not have any a business in New York. He said he is skeptical of the decision to change the town code because it could cost the town tax revenue from businesses that will be disinclined to build in the municipality.
“I’m just, I’m wary about our town code being manipulated to block certain things that are happening…,” Rutigliano said. “I don’t think the solution is to just take a man’s right and his land that was purchased under the code, and take it like this, and that’s kind of what’s happening with some properties.”
Philip Butler, a lawyer from Farrell Fritz represents the Rockefeller Group, which has an application pending with the town for a 150,000 square foot warehouse facility.
He said that the change in codes represented a betrayal of his client by the town, and that their facility represented a new type of business model which needs to be considered.
“There is a difference between something like an E-commerce or last-mile warehouse and what I’ll refer to as traditional warehouse and storage uses,” Butler said. “This [proposed law] is a rising tide that is going to raise all ships, and that becomes problematic for traditional uses that do not operate at the same volume as an Amazon or last-mile warehouse.”