Zoning laws, climate change, sea levels hot topics

Comprehensive long-range plan for Sea Cliff is nearing completion


Sea Cliff officials took some of the final steps in establishing a Comprehensive Plan to help guide the village into the future.

The mayor and board went over some final specifics and thoughts during one of its last public meetings about the plan May 16. After another meeting June 20, the final plan will be unveiled to the public later this summer.

The Comprehensive Plan has been in the works for several years now, beginning with the establishment of the village’s Steering Committee in 2019. The long-range plan is frequently developed by businesses, governments, nonprofits and other organizations to develop a framework to take short-term action to achieve desired outcomes over the next two decades.

Sea Cliff Mayor Elena Villafane made the creation of a comprehensive plan a top priority for her administration, and since November of 2022, the village board has held numerous public meetings to discuss the scope and aims of the plan.

This is the first such plan that Sea Cliff had since the 1970s, and Villafane has continued to emphasize that the plan’s goal is to look to the village’s future and protect its residents for decades to come.

Members of the Board of Trustees, the mayor, village officials and representatives from plan consultants BFJ Planning, discussed a wide range of subjects pertaining to the plan, from potentially merging the Landmark Preservation Commission with the Architectural Review Board to considering changing the speed limits in parts of the village.

“It’s aspirational, because it requires the assistance of other government agencies,” Villafane said. “With the amount of input we’ve received from the community and the amount of work that’s gone into this, this clearly will be a well-made plan.”

One of the major points was establishing new zoning laws to preempt prospective attempts to replace buildings in the village with multi-family housing. A large concern currently facing many communities across Long Island is the destruction of local neighborhoods in favor of high-occupancy housing.

Through the comprehensive plan, the village board would take important issues into consideration earlier, and try to find ways to change laws to prevent such predatory attempts by developers.

Village Trustee Nick Pinto added that the issue is extremely relevant to the community, and by getting ahead of it, they could help preserve the beauty and uniqueness of Sea Cliff and its architecture.

“I think this issue, to me, has to be one of the biggest we’re facing,” Pinto said. “It’s a real detriment, and I’ve already seen it happen in our community.”

Like the comprehensive plan, Sea Cliff has not had a major update to its zoning laws since the 1970s, leaving it out of date and inadequate to serve the modern community. With the plan, the village’s leadership will be better prepared to anticipate necessary changes to the zoning laws in the coming years.

Climate change was another hot topic for the board where they look to begin to prepare for the problem. While the most serious effects of global warming, specifically sea level rise will not be apparent for decades. Trustee Mark Sobel pointed out that the climate crisis is one of the worst threats facing the community.

“I think that probably, other than the zoning, dealing with the environment in this community is probably the most important,” Sobel said. “I know how important the harbor is to this community and our way of life.”

He highlighted the need to begin planning for sea level rise, which could threaten beachside properties in the coming years. Through the discussion, it was established that the most reliable environmental studies suggested that major impact wouldn’t be felt until 2050, although it was good to begin thinking about the issue in advance.