If you own property in the Moriches and Eastport area, now is a good time to check your zoning. On July 12, 2016, the Town Board of Brookhaven, on its own motion, rezoned approximately 1400 parcels, which included about 1,200 acres in Moriches, Center Moriches, East Moriches and Eastport (the “Greater Moriches Area”). Spearheaded by Councilman Daniel Panico, this is part of a larger plan to “preserve” areas along Montauk Highway from Moriches to Eastport in an effort to retain the area’s rural character. Essentially this was a “downzoning” of the area.
The rezonings were a result of the Town’s planning study known as the Greater Moriches Zoning Re-Evaluation Study, (“Study”) which again sought to resolve zoning issues plaguing the Greater Moriches area and identified in a multitude of planning and civic studies performed over the past 20 years. Many of those recommendations had not been implemented for various reasons. Aimed at reducing “sprawl”, the Study sought to address incompatible land use mixes and limit potential sites for “big box stores” along Montauk Highway and the Frowein Road corridors. Pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”), the Study was also the subject of a DGEIS, known as, Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DEGIS) for the Draft Comprehensive Zoning Re-Evaluation of Montauk Highway Corridor for Moriches, Center Moriches, East Moriches and Eastport, which studied the impacts and provided a land use rational for the proposed rezoning. On June 9, 2016, a findings statement was adopted by the Town Board which paved the way for the rezonings to proceed.
Although characterized as a rezoning affecting large swaths of land along Montauk Highway in the Great Moriches Area, the actual rezoned properties resemble a patchwork of parcels located in business districts and along waterways in the area. In fact, sizable amounts of the rezoned parcel are municipal or State-owned properties that in many cases had already been preserved as open space.
Opponents of the rezoning, as one would guess, were property owners who had invested in the area and were concerned that property values would fall. As a rule of thumb, removing commercial zoning in an area prevents further development and decreases the tax base which generally helps to off-set the cost of community services.
What no one can know is whether the Town’s latest approach will preserve the charm of “the Moriches” or stagnate the area. In September, the Town Board plans to hold more public hearings on similar rezoning proposals in Eastport and Center Moriches. For a complete viewing of the public hearings regarding the rezoning please visit the Town of Brookhaven webcast.