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General FAQs

What is the Central Pine Barrens region and why was it established?

In the 1970s and 1980s, the area known as the Central Pine Barrens began to be recognized as a region important to the future of Long Island for its significant natural resources, especially its potable groundwater, vast areas of forests and important ecological value. A movement began in the latter part of the 1980s to increase public awareness of the importance of this area and to seek mechanisms to ensure its protection.

In the early 1990s, the commencement of litigation in regard to development in the Pine Barrens ultimately led to acknowledgement in 1992 by New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, that this area required a comprehensive plan which would preserve the integrity of its significant natural resources while allowing development to occur in certain locations guided by specific requirements. Accordingly, in 1993 the New York State Legislature passed the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act to protect the region now known as the Central Pine Barrens.

The Act was designed to ensure protection of groundwater for the residents of Suffolk County, essential since groundwater is the sole source of drinking water in the county. The Act also provided protection of surface waters and a threatened ecosystem found in only a few locations in the United States and which contains one of the greatest concentrations of rare, endangered and threatened plants and animals in New York State.

The Central Pine Barrens is located in the central-eastern part of Suffolk County and is comprised of portions of eastern Brookhaven Town, western Southampton Town and southern Riverhead Town.  The region is comprised of approximately 105,000 acres divided into two distinct sub-regions, the Core Preservation Area which contains a significant amount of publicly-owned, preserved land and in which new development is prohibited and the Compatible Growth Area, in which limited, environmentally-compatible development is permitted.

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Why was my property designated as being within the Central Pine Barrens?

The boundaries of the Central Pine Barrens were initially created by the New York State Legislature in 1993 with input from a wide range of constituencies including the general public, civic organizations, developers, businesses, environmentalists and government officials.  A single, contiguous land area was established as the Central Pine Barrens to ensure not only the integrity of its natural resources but also in recognition of the need to ensure that human communities would continue to thrive and flourish and that economic development activities could continue to be undertaken in appropriate areas.

In 2013, the State Legislature expanded the Central Pine Barrens region in the vicinity of the Carmans River Watershed in Brookhaven Town to provide increased protection for the surface water, groundwater and ecological resources associated with this river.  As part of this Carmans River initiative, vacant and developed lands, both public and private, were added to the existing portions of the Central Pine Barrens in both the Core Preservation Area and Compatible Growth Area.  The effective date of this expansion was January 1, 2014.

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What activities can I undertake involving my property in the Central Pine Barrens?

The Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act, contained in Article 57 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, describes and defines the activities that it regulates and for which approvals may be required from either a municipality and/or the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.

Section 57-0107(13) of the Act lists these activities. (This section of the law is excerpted below.)

Activities defined below as “development” are subject to review pursuant to the Act and the Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Land Use Plan (and may also require additional approvals from other governmental entities).  Activities defined below as “non-development” are not subject to review pursuant to the Act and the Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Land Use Plan; however, activities defined as non-development may still require approvals from other municipalities or government entities.  You are encouraged to contact the Commission office with any questions or for further information (see separate contact information below).

 

13.    "Development" shall mean the performance of any building activity or mining operation, the making of any material change in the use or intensity of use of any structure or land and the creation or termination of rights of access or riparian rights. Without limitation, the following activities or uses shall be taken for the purposes of this article to involve development as defined in this subdivision:

(a)  a change in type of use of a structure or land or, if the ordinance or rule divides uses into classes, a change from one class of use designated in an ordinance or rule to a use in another class so designated;

(b) a material increase in the intensity of use of land or environmental impacts as a result thereof;

(c) commencement of mining, excavation or material alteration of grade or vegetation on a parcel of land excluding environmental restoration activities;

(d) material alteration of a shore, bank or flood plain of a river, stream, lake, pond, or artificial body of water;

(e) re-establishment of a use which has been abandoned for one year;

(f) departure from the normal use for which development permission has been granted, or material failure to comply with the conditions of an ordinance, rule or order granting the development permission under which the development was commenced or is continued.

The following operations or uses do not constitute development for the purposes of this article:

(i)   public improvements undertaken for the health, safety or welfare of the public. Such public improvements shall be consistent with the goals and objectives of this article, and shall include, but not be limited to, maintenance of an existing road or railroad track;

(ii) work by any utility not involving substantial engineering redesign for the purpose of inspection, maintenance or renewal on established utility rights-of-way or the likes, and any work pertaining to water supply for the residents of Suffolk county;

(iii) work for the maintenance, renewal, replacement, reconstruction, improvement, or alteration of any existing structure or additions to an existing residence or residential property owned by an association formed for the common interest in real property;

(iv) the use of any structure or land devoted to dwelling uses for any purposes customarily incidental and otherwise lawful;

(v) the use of any land for the purpose of agriculture or horticulture;

(vi) work by a utility performed for the purpose of public health, safety, or welfare and consistent with the goals and objectives of this article;

(vii) existing or expanded recreational use consistent with the purposes of this article including scouting activities, the maintenance or expansion of facilities associated with or necessary for such scouting activities including, but not limited to, the addition, modification, expansion or replacement of structures necessary for such activities and such clearing as may be reasonably required for the maintenance or expansion of scouting activities;

(viii) a change in use of land or structure from a use within a class specified in an ordinance or rule to another use in the same class;

(ix) residential development on any subdivision, residential clustered development, land division or site plan which has received preliminary or final approval on or before June first, nineteen hundred ninety- three, providing the lots to be built upon conform to the lot area requirements of the current zoning, are subject to the three year exemption contained in section two hundred sixty-five- of the town law, or are subject to an exemption from an up-zoning adopted by a town board;

(x) in the core preservation area, construction of one single family home and customary accessory uses thereto on those parcels identified in the comprehensive land use plan adopted by the commission in June of nineteen hundred ninety-five and as amended on February twenty-first, two thousand one;

(xi) in the compatible growth area, construction of single family homes and customary accessory uses thereto on any lot held on June 1, 1993 in ownership singly and separately from adjacent lots;

(xii) in the compatible growth area, continuation of existing non-conforming uses, and activities permitted by special permit or special exception, including renewals of said special permits or exceptions;

(xiii) in the compatible growth area, land divisions or subdivisions in the compatible growth area consisting of five or fewer residential lots which conform to the lot area requirement of the existing zoning for the subject parcel;

(xiv) in the compatible growth area, renovations, reconstructions, additions or extensions to existing commercial or industrial uses providing the addition or extension conforms to the uses permitted in the zoning district in which said parcel is located and which does not increase existing square footage by more than twenty-five percent; or

(xv) in  the  core preservation area, the state or public corporation projects on parcels identified in the comprehensive land use plan adopted by the commission in June of nineteen hundred ninety-five, as amended on February twenty-first, two thousand one and October twentieth, two thousand four.

Development as designated in an ordinance, rule, or development permit includes all other development customarily associated with it unless otherwise specified.
 

If you are not certain whether or not potential activity on your property falls within one of the above-listed categories, please feel free to contact the Commission office at 631-288-1079.

Please note that other constraints on your property, imposed by entities other than the Commission, may exist and may affect your proposal.  These can include restrictive covenants, easements and buffers which might have been required by a municipality or some other public agency.  Accordingly, you are urged to investigate whether or not such other restrictions on your property may be present.

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What can I do with a parcel of private property I own in the Core Preservation Area?

The Act states that “new construction or development” shall be prohibited within or redirected from the Core Preservation Area via the implementation of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

However, owners of private, undeveloped or partially-developed land have a number of alternatives available which include transfer and sale of development rights through the Pine Barrens Credit program and fee acquisition with monetary compensation.

The Pine Barrens Credit program is a voluntary program that allows you to apply to the Pine Barrens Credit Clearinghouse, which oversees the program on behalf of the Commission, for a Pine Barrens Credit Certificate, which is a numerical representation of the development rights associated with your private property.  Pine Barrens credits have monetary value and can be sold for a financial return.  Developers and others seek Pine Barrens credits for various development projects. In return for this certificate, a conservation easement is placed on your property which ensures it will be preserved in its existing natural state. You will still retain ownership of the property.

To find out more information on the Pine Barrens Credit program and how it may benefit you, please visit the Pine Barrens Credit program.

Owners of developable private property in the Core Preservation Area can also seek to sell their property to a public agency or municipality for preservation or to a private, not-for-profit organization, such as a land trust, which seeks to preserve and protect land.

Alternatively, owners of undeveloped or partially-developed land in the Core Preservation Area who wish to pursue a development activity may apply for and seek a hardship waiver approval from the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission. Waivers are subject to the Commission’s review and discretion, pursuant to the timeframes and provisions in the Act.  Please note that no new development may occur on undeveloped or partially-developed real property in the Core Preservation Area unless the Central Pine Barrens Commission has first approved such hardship waiver.

If you seek to develop your property, it is recommended you first review the list of activities defined as “development” and “non-development” under the question above entitled “What activities can I undertake involving my property in the Central Pine Barrens?” Activities defined as “development” and which are proposed to occur in the Core Preservation Area require a hardship waiver from the Commission. You must complete and submit to the Commission a formal application, at which point the Commission will review the application and hold a public hearing on the proposal. At the end of this process, the Commission will make a discretionary decision as to whether or not to approve the application.  (Please note that prior hardship waiver decisions issued by the Commission can be viewed on the Commission website in the document library under the category "development project decisions".

If you are not certain whether or not an activity you are proposing on your property constitutes development, please feel free to contact the Commission office at 631-288-1079.

 

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What can I do with a parcel of private property I own in the Compatible Growth Area?

It is recommended that you first review the list of activities defined as “development” and “non-development” under the question above entitled “What activities can I undertake involving my property in the Central Pine Barrens?”

New development in the Compatible Growth Area is subject to the provisions of the Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Land Use Plan, particularly Standards and Guidelines for Land Use contained within Chapter 5 of the plan. Each of the three towns in the Central Pine Barrens (the Towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton), has incorporated these standards and guidelines into their respective land use and zoning codes and new development in the Compatible Growth Area in one of these towns must conform to the Central Pine Barrens-specific code for that town.

Please note that most development in the Compatible Growth Area is reviewed solely at the town level as long as it is conformance with the standards and guidelines and provided it is not located in an area designated as a Critical Resource Area (CRA), is not classified as a “Development of Regional Significance” (DRS) and is not a development project over which the Commission asserts jurisdiction.  If, however, the development project does not meet one or more of the land use development standards or is within a CRA, is classified as a DRS, or is one over which the Commission has asserted jurisdiction, then the Commission would also review the project, in addition to the town.

If an activity is defined as non-development, it is not subject to review pursuant to the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act and Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  However, activities defined as non-development may still require approvals from a municipality or other governmental entity.

If you are not certain whether or not an activity you are proposing on your property constitutes development, please refer to the information located under the question above “What activities can I undertake involving my property in the Central Pine Barrens?” or contact the Commission office at 631-288-1079. Also, please note that other constraints on your property, imposed by entities other than the Commission, may exist and may affect your proposal.  These can include restrictive covenants, easements and buffers which might have been required by a municipality or some other public agency.  Accordingly, you are urged to investigate whether or not such other restrictions on your property may be present.

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What is the Central Pine Barrens Commission’s role in compliance and enforcement?

The Central Pine Barrens Commission office has a Compliance and Enforcement Division comprised of three compliance and enforcement coordinators.  This unit conducts compliance inspections of Commission-permitted land use activities and development projects to ensure that development does not exceed the scope of permit conditions and coordinates investigations into land use and related violations in the Central Pine Barrens region. The division also coordinates with other involved agencies and councils to research and investigate incidents involving clearing, dumping and other unauthorized disturbances and activities in the Central Pine Barrens.

In addition, the unit acts as a clearinghouse for complaints about potential violations, prepares initial reports about potential violation incidents and refers cases to other agencies for investigation and processing. The unit assists other agencies in the investigation of violations in the Central Pine Barrens and follows up on incidents referred to other agencies and tracks incidents.

The division works with the Commission’s Law Enforcement Council on multi-jurisdictional environmental compliance issues, such as all-terrain vehicle enforcement, as well as legislation to create or improve existing environmental enforcement regulations. The division also conducts monitoring and enforcement of conservation easements resulting from the Pine Barrens Credit Program.

If you observe a violation or are aware of any potential violations in the Central Pine Barrens, you are encouraged to report them to the Commission office using the contact information noted below.  In addition, if you have any questions regarding enforcement and compliance matters in the Central Pine Barrens, please feel free to contact the Commission at 631-288-1079.

 

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What is the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission and what does it do?

The Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission was created in 1993 as part of New York State’s Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act. The Act created a five-member Commission representing New York State, Suffolk County, and the Towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton to oversee the Central Pine Barrens. The Act also required the creation and implementation of a Comprehensive Land Use Plan, initially adopted in 1995 and amended periodically since, which authorizes regulation of land use in the Central Pine Barrens.

The Act and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan give the Commission joint land use review, permitting, and enforcement authority along with local municipalities, in particular the Towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton. The Act and plan also confer stewardship and protected land management and ecological management responsibilities to the Commission and allow for the establishment and operation of a transfer of development rights and conservation easement program which is overseen and managed by the Commission.

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How can I get answers to questions or more information about the Central Pine Barrens?

If there is any information about the Central Pine Barrens that you cannot find on this website please feel free to contact the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission office by phone at (631) 288-1079 or email us at info@pb.state.ny.us. You can also mail inquires to the Commission at:

Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission
624 Old Riverhead Road
Westhampton Beach, NY  11978
 

Please note our office hours:

Monday through Friday
 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

 

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