A public hearing for the Beaver dam Boat Basin, located at 320 South Country Road in Brookhaven, was postponed by the owner last week and will be rescheduled by the Brookhaven Town Zoning Board for the next meeting to be held on Wednesday, April 5 at 2 p.m.
The applicant has requested certificate of existing use for both a one- and two-story building being used as an office and boat repair shop with 11 apartments, a one-story dwelling with two apartments, and a metal storage building.
According to town officials, the structures, many of which have been converted into living spaces, have existed at that location for decades and have been part of an ongoing dispute. The location has also had a history of violations both for building without permits and for illegal rentals. The parcel is zoned as marine commercial, the result of a town board rezoning in 2018. Also, town staff could not locate any certificates of occupancy or their equivalent.
Section 85-16 of town code (Certificate of Existing Use) states the following: “The Town Board recognizes that certain structures exist in the Town of Brookhaven which were erected prior to the adoption of the Zoning Code in 1937 and, therefore, do not have certificates of occupancy. The Town Board also recognizes that other structures were erected between 1937 and June 30, 1959, when records of the building Division were destroyed, and no certificates of occupancy are available for these structures.” Section 85- 16(C) of town code states that “no nonconforming use or structure other than that for a sole single-family dwelling on a single lot shall be maintained or renewed without a certificate of existing use having first been issued by the Chief Building Inspector after a public hearing and approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals.” The certificate of existing use BZA report from the building department reveals “apartments created post 1959, structures exist prior to 1959.”
In order to obtain a certificate of existing use, the town zoning board recommended that the applicant provide certain proofs to the board, including affidavits, assessment records, surveys, newspaper articles, photographs, or other proof that the parcel has been historically and continually used as outlined in the applicant’s request for the certificate of existing use.
A 1961 aerial photo showed the marina dwelling, a two-story frame building and storage building, appearing to be in their current size and configuration as today. The zoning history reveals the site was residential, J-2 commercial and currently marine commercial. However, none of the zoning districts permits two-family dwellings or apartment use. Also, two floating homes at the marina were approved by prior zoning board in 2000; however, renewals were never granted.
According to the owners of the boat basin, the property has been a boatyard since the 1930s, before there was zoning. When the town started zoning properties, the owner at that time, Clinton Smith, a builder from New York City, had it zoned residential and J2 commercial.
“He asked for commercial because he was renting boat space and residential because he was renting residential space (apartments),” explained owner and president of the Beaver Dam Boat Basin, Kenneth Hildbrandt Jr., explaining that J2 business was the most commercial zoning at that time.
He went on to explain that the business was building boats, repairing boats, renting boats, renting space, and renting apartments some to Army cadets at Camp Upton and their families.
“There were very few commercially zoned boatyards then, and that’s still true today. Most boatyards in the town are non-conforming,” he added. “Beaver Dam Boat Basin has always been a conforming boatyard; it is zoned J2 and residential and is taxed accordingly. The town wanted to change the zoning for boatyards to J5, a new, less aggressive zoning for commercial uses, then decided that even J5 uses were still too abrasive for the residential areas with which boatyards shared space. Please keep in mind that most South Shore J2-zoned boatyards, at that time, were not surrounded by any houses.”
Then, in 1995, Beaver Dam Boat Basin, he said, lost a storage building.
“When applying for a permit to replace the building, the town decided they didn’t like the J2 zoning for boatyards, but didn’t have a solution,” Hildbrant Jr. said. “As a result of the town’s zoning issues, the permit application to replace the building was denied even though Beaver Dam Boat Basin was zoned J2 and residential, as per town requirements dating back to the 1930s.”
“Twenty-eight years later, the town, with help from the newly elected officials, finally came to a resolution to work with the boatyards they previously denied and agreed on a new zoning code that would work for all going forward,” he continued. “At the meetings and hearings, the boatyard owners were promised they would be able to keep their existing uses when converting from J2 to the new zoning (marina commercial).”
Beaver Dam Boat Basin’s uses always included boat building, storage, boat rentals, residential rentals, slip rentals, and boat repairs. On the town’s accord, Hildbrant said that Beaver Dam Boat Basin is now applying for a certificate of existing use.
Brookhaven Village Association president Chris Ciervo said the plan, overall, is to legitimize things the owner has been doing for years. He also noted that the association’s main concern is for the area’s water quality.
“It is an environmentally fragile area,” he said, noting that adding waste to the area is not looking favorable, especially with the closing of the landfill. “We want to make sure whatever ends up happening it is done legitimately with no contamination of the Beaver Dam Creek and surrounding waters of the Great South Bay.”
Brookhaven Village Association board director Julia Villacara agreed, stating that the apartments have been there for years. Rather, she said, the area residents hope the sewage system is brought up to code.
“The town recently invested a huge amount of money into the drainage and filtration on Beaver Dam Road to mitigate the stormwater,” she said. “There have been violations for that building and it should be taken down,” she added.
She also referenced the current undeveloped metal structure that sits on the waterfront, creating rust spill off into the waterway and marring the local landscape and view from the Post-Morrow Foundation.