By Steve Plunkett

An ad hoc committee of planning board members and interested citizens is busy looking for ways to make sure the mass of a new home doesn’t overshadow its neighbors.

“We have been tiptoeing around the massing issue for the last 10 years,” Mayor Scott Morgan said as the Town Commission prepared to authorize creating the panel on March 8.

Chaired by Architectural Review and Planning Board member and former Town Commissioner Paul Lyons Jr., the ad hoc committee met for the first time on March 28. Other members are ARPB members Malcolm Murphy and Thom Smith (another former town commissioner) and Core district residents Gary Cantor, Michael Glennon and Bill Koch.

Morgan said people tearing down a single-story home in the Core area and then replacing it with a two-story residence is making that neighborhood the one “most in threat of being changed” despite the town’s Design Manual having been created to preserve Gulf Stream’s original mid-20th-century charm.

“As property values increase, the desire for large homes comes along with it,” he said.

Lyons told commissioners that it was important for the ad hoc panel to have a clear mission and said he had identified 10 sections of the town code that might need modifications.

“My understanding is to look at massing within the Core district, that would be our focus, and to come up with some approaches, ideas to try to maintain the current atmosphere we enjoy — on Polo Drive in particular and Gulfstream Drive, those two lanes that are critical to the Core district,” he said.

He said the panel will meet every other week to “pick the brains of others,” including architects and city planners, and look at places such as Southampton, New York, where he has a summer home. That village, he said, “has developed some rules, codes, policies as relate to these kinds of issues in a similar kind of core district.”

Lyons said the panel would work hard to get residents to come to its meetings, “so it’s not just the ad hoc committee, but it’s the public, and we then make a recommendation to the commission.”

He also referred to the town’s coming centennial in 2025.

“You know we’re approaching 100 years,” he said. “Now we need to have a plan on how we want to see the town evolve” over the next 100 years.

Lyons also said the ad hoc committee would want to create incentives to discourage massing.

“Rather than be punitive — you can’t do this — (let’s say) this is what you can do. So, we’re gonna try to give it a positive environment for people to operate in,” he said.

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