Land Use Chapter of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan

Southold’s Comprehensive Plan Update: Land Use Chapter Submitted

Your Vision For Fishers Island’s Future

Please take the time to look at the now completed Land Use Chapter of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. Please pay particular attention to the section devoted to Fishers Island and specifically to the draft goals at the end of that section. Please use the link below to access the information on Fishers Island (which begins on page 31 of the Plan).

Fishers Island Section

Fishers Island

Fishers Island hamlet is a long, narrow island located at the eastern tip of Southold Town, about 12 miles northeast of Orient Point, and 4 miles from the coast of Connecticut. It is surrounded by Long Island Sound to the west, Fishers Island Sound on the north, and Block Island Sound to the south. Fishers Island is 2,586 acres in size, and about 7 miles in length.

Visiting Fishers Island is like going back in time. The pace is slower, there is little traffic, and everywhere is quiet and peaceful, except for the bustle of activity near the dock when the ferry lands. As an island, it’s challenges are different than the rest of Southold Town. Over a third of Fishers Island’s 2,586 acres are developed with residential land uses, most of which are single-family homes. An unusual statistic about Fishers Island is that 80% of those 660 homes are seasonal. This is much higher than the town-wide average of 36%, and demonstrates the biggest problem facing Fishers Island, the continuing decline of its year-round population. The density of housing on the island is 0.25 housing units per acre, about half of the density in the Town overall.

Another prominent feature of land use on Fishers Island is its recreation and open space, covering nearly 20% of the land. There are two golf courses, and considerable areas of natural lands preserved from future development. Another 26% of the land remains undeveloped, yet technically available for development in the future. There is no land in agricultural use, though there is active aquaculture for oysters conducted in the water on Fishers Island.

Commercial uses are spread out in several isolated pockets of non-residential zoning on the west end of the island, most located outside the small hamlet center. The hamlet center consists of several shops, a museum, and a municipal building.

A complete list of land uses and the amount found on Fishers Island can be found in Table _. Land Use on Fishers Island.

Table _. Land Use on Fishers Island

Land Use                                  Acres        %
Residential                                     940          36.3
Vacant                                             669          25.9
Recreation & Open Space            471          18.2
Transportation                              329          12.7
Institutional                                     95            3.7
Waste Handling & Mgt                  28            1.1
Industrial                                          24           0.9
Commercial                                      22           0.9
Utilities                                                7           0.3
Total Acres                                   2586

Zoning on Fishers Island

The zoning on Fishers Island is unique in that it is the only place in Southold Town that has Residential 120 (R-120) zoning, otherwise known as “3-acre” zoning, which covers nearly 70% of the island. Nine of the nineteen zoning districts appear, with the R-120, R-80, and R-40 districts covering 2,262 of Fishers’ 2,586 acres. The commercial zoning is spread out into six areas with the two largest areas being the 18 acres of General Business (B) zone near the ferry, and the 13 acres of Limited Business (LB) zone along Crescent and Fox Avenues.

See Table __ Zoning in the hamlets of Southold Town.

Buildout Analysis for Fishers Island

The theoretical buildout potential for Fishers Island can be estimated by looking at the current land available for development and the zoning.

There are approximately 854 acres of land available for development in Fishers Island. Of those 854 acres, there are 488 acres of land that can be further subdivided. Theoretically, if all were subdivided to their full yield, an additional 83 building lots would be created. The remaining 366 acres of land already exist as 196 individual vacant house lots. Added together they represent the theoretical buildout potential for Fishers Island of 279 housing units.

The majority, 70%, of those possible new housing units would be on house lots that already exist, while the other 83 potential house lots or 30% do not exist today, and would have to be created through the subdivision process.

These buildout numbers are estimates based on the best available data. Many factors influence how much land will be subdivided, and how many homes will actually be constructed in the future. These factors include the economy, and the fact that much of the land that can be further subdivided is currently in use by the two golf courses on the island. In addition, many of the vacant house lots are located in the area controlled by the Fishers Island Development Corporation (FIDCO), and their future buildout is, in part, controlled by FIDCO. See the buildout analysis discussion in the first section of this chapter for more discussion on this topic.

Goals/Issues for Fishers Island

The residents of Fishers Island wish to maintain the island’s quiet, rural lifestyle and strong community networks that define its character. Maintaining and growing the year-round population and economy are crucial aspects of this vision, as are protecting its natural resources and limiting tourism to a sustainable level.

1. Facilitate a stable population of year-round residents on the island. The year-round population is dwindling, in part due to lack of jobs and lack of affordable homes.

a. Create new housing at a price that is attainable for year-round residents. This topic is covered in more detail in the Housing Chapter of this plan.

b. Create quality jobs; or

c. Create or maintain efficient, affordable commuting options to the mainland.

2. Strengthen and diversify the economic base of the island to provide goods and services necessary for a year-round population, as well as to create quality local employment.

a. Examine the zoning on Fishers Island to identify changes tailored to the island’s unique demographic and economic challenges. Goal # 12 of the town-wide goals above addresses this issue by calling for an examination of the zoning town-wide. Fishers Island challenges are shared to some degree by all the hamlets, however due to the small size and isolation of the island, these challenges are intensified and probably require unique solutions.

The implementation of this goal for Fishers Island has a head start over other hamlets because of all the hard work done by the Land Use committee of Fishers Island citizens over the past two years identifying where zoning can be modified to better accomplish the goals of the island. This work will also complement and can be used in conjunction with the Fishers Island Community Board’s plans to create an action plan for the island.

3. Ensure the infrastructure on the island is in good repair, and used in a sustainable manner. This topic is covered in more detail in the Transportation and Infrastructure Chapter of this plan.

The Town Planners will be on the Island Saturday, June 4th 10:00-12:00 at the Community Center to answer questions and receive comments on the chapter. Come give us your views on the draft Land Use Chapter of Southold Town’s new Comprehensive Plan, and the future of Fishers. One may also direct comments to Heather Lanza at

Thank you, Louisa Evans

Southold Interactive Map

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