East Hampton is unique in many ways, and one way that causes continual frustration amongst homeowners is that East Hampton has a generalized restriction on the amount of clearing allowed in residential districts. Clearing, in this context, means the removal of trees, brush, or other vegetation/ground cover (See East Hampton Town Code, § 255-1-20). To say that a property is not cleared means that the property is in its natural state, without alteration by human activity.

In Southampton and many other towns, the code only restricts the allowable amount of clearing in certain zoning districts. In East Hampton, however, the code provides a general limit on the allowable clearing in any residential area, and then there are increased limits in certain zoning districts, such as Water Recharge Overlay. The general residential clearing limits are:

Lot Area (in sq. ft.) Maximum Clearing Permitted
Up to and including 10,999 sq. ft. 100%
From 11,000 to and including 19,999 sq. ft. 10,999 sq. ft. or 75%, whichever is greater
From 20,000 to and including 280,000 sq. ft. 10,000 sq. ft. + (lot area x 25%)
Greater than 280,000 sq. ft. 80,000 sq. ft.

See Town Code, § 255-2-60.

For a 40,000 sq. ft. residential lot, for example, the maximum clearing permitted, assuming a residential area with no other special designations, is 20,000 sq. ft. (10,000 sq. ft. + (40,000 sq. ft. x 25%)). Similar calculations can be done for other lot sizes.

There are a few caveats to these limits. First, as we’ve said above, certain zoning districts can have more restrictive limits. Second, the area of a flag strip on a flag lot does not count, either to the total lot area or to the clearing permitted. Third, for lots larger than 280,000 sq. ft., the Planning Board can permit additional clearing. Fourth, the Town maintains a list of lots that were fully cleared prior to the enactment of the clearing restrictions, so these lots are not subject to the above-stated limits.

While this information might seem overwhelming, the important thing to remember is to check on the clearing existing and the clearing allowed before removing trees, brush, or other vegetation on your lot for landscaping, building projects, or any other reason. A surveyor should be able to put the clearing calculations on your survey. Having to revegetate is expensive and the Town will not issue certificates of occupancy or board approvals for lots that are overcleared.

PLEASE NOTE that this article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship and the information within does not substitute for a consultation with an attorney.

Copyright 2021 Crouch McWilliams Law Group, PLLC