To the Editor:
The Courts and Linden Lane in Stone Harbor contain small homes constructed almost 100 years ago. Living space varies from 480 square feet to 330 square feet.
Some court owners who have slightly larger square footage expanded prior to restrictions and are not interested in any construction. This current ordinance will give those cottage owners interested in improvements, much needed, if very restrictive space, both utility and living space.
There are a few cottages that were left back in time because of a moratorium enacted in the mid-'80s that prohibited the addition of a second story. Ironically, that was the time that the demolition of many homes on Seven Mile Island began an expansion from the small Cape Cod style to what is now known as “McMansions.”
Stone Harbor's Planning Board has worked hard for the past three years along with cottage owners, to provide some relief to these homeowners. The ordinance is modest in its scope; any house must have a 5-foot setback from the property line. If there are previous additions to a cottage, they must comply with the setback.
Almost all of the cottages are already in compliance. The height for a cottage is also restrictive; cottages can only be 22 feet. Regular lots, not the Courts, on the island can have heights of 38 or 41 feet. Other fire prevention methods must be added, such as sprinkler systems, to ensure safety.
These requirements are more restrictive than homes on larger lots, but provide some living space, since second-floor living space would only be 50% of the first-floor footprint. However, it also provides storage space.
These modest improvements allow for home modernization, use of fire-retardant materials, raising homes for flood prevention, and alleviating storage congestion. These improvements would benefit not only the small homes, but also the community in general.
Contrary to some residents who oppose these very modest improvements, this proposition will not create density, nor added cars. No lifestyle changes are envisioned by adding a very small bedroom that is 200 or 300 square feet, but the quality of lives will improve by providing a bed for a family member who has been sleeping on a couch, and/or storage space for utility repairs without removing part of the homes’ siding or roof.
The impact on surrounding streets will be minimal, due to the proposed restrictions and small number of Court owners who may want to improve their homes. Making small changes is as much about utility storage as it is about living space.
Opponents’ fear of emergency vehicles servicing the Courts is a discussion for another time because the Courts have existed since the 1920s. Why would there be a concern now, if you’ve been living next to the Court for 10, 20, or 40 years and all residents are serviced? To my knowledge, no cottage has had fire damage or been destroyed by fire.
Also, there are many multiunit family dwellings on the island already and usually, only one parking space is assigned, yet there is plenty of parking during the summer on main and side streets.