Before the vote, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski thanked the board.
"This is really important legislation for the future of Southold Town. You're taking the right step."
Before the vote, Councilman Bill Ruland, in turn, thanked the legislator, a former Southold town councilman.
"Some of the thanks goes to Al Krupsi who, two years ago, said we really ought to do this," he said.
Ruland also thanked the planning department who, in the midst of working on the comprehensive plan, worked on an issue some felt was "sticky," and others, "straightforward," and said the result was something all could work with."We don't know what the future holds," he said. "But we've certainly taken a step in the right direction."
At the most recent public hearing in early August, residents spoke passionately about Plum Island's future.
Southold's zoning plan for the island calls for a 125-acre Plum Island research district, which would comprise 20 percent of the island, and a 350-acre Plum Island conservation district, that would make up the remaining 80 percent, which would be a natural preserve.
The goal is to create some kind of research facility that could possibly keep the 400 year-round jobs that currently exist on Plum Island in town.
The town board agreed to strike the third zoning, Marine II, from the legislation. That zoning deals with ferry access to Plum Island; Councilwoman Jill Doherty said Tuesday that too many questions still exist regarding that zoning. Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said the public can weigh in on the issue at a later time.
Riverhead attorney Charles Cuddy, representing the Cross Sound Ferry, said he "appreciated" that the board had removed the MII zoning from the current discussion and said he welcomed future discussion.
Bob Hanlon, who sits on the board of the Orient Association, said residents were feeling concern about the future of Plum Island.
While heartened by Southold's zoning proposals, Hanlon said he was concerned by the General Services Administration's that the sale of Plum Island would not have significant impact on the Southold community.
Should the parcel be sold and developed, Hanlon said "any significant change upward of traffic on Main Road is a burden on the community."
Currently, he said, farmers with equipment, residents, and ferry traffic "compete" for the one road through Orient. "We are striking a balance between residential, commercial, and agricultural," he said. "I think we are striking a pretty good balance overall, but anything that upsets that balance would be negative and detrimental."
Aaron Virgin, speaking for the Group for the East End, said short of full preservation of Plum Island by the federal government, the organization supported the zoning proposals.
He recommended that 21 acres in the northwest part of the property be put into the conservation district, stating that the area was highly visible to boaters and any buildings would mar the landscape. He also pointed out erosion concerns.
Virgin also discussed the 1879 discovery of a woolly mammoth on the island, which had recently come to light, based on a historical journal from the 1950s.
The area where the woolly mammoth was found, he continued, should remain part of the conservation district so that more research could be done.
Others spoke out in favor of the zoning, including a representative from the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, who said the ultimate goal would be that it be preserved as a natural wildlife refuge.
Orient resident Ellen McNeilly commended the town for the proposed zoning, which she said was a "wonderful thing" that the town has "undertaken and planned beautifully."
McNeilly then said she would like to see a Plum Island facility for coastal and environmental studies in the research district, similar to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, that would gain educational support from prestigious universities.
Save the Sound attorney Charles Rothenberger said while he was pleased to see a reduction in the minimum lot sizes for the respective districts — a move that he said would lessen the potential environmental impacts on the island — he said he was concerned about the possibility of ballfields or other active recreation, which he did not think were appropriate for the site.
A conservation biologist from Peconic, Louise Harrison, echoed Rothenberger's concern.
The latest draft of the proposed zoning, she said, "does not include the words 'passive recreation,'" opening up the doors to park activities that could be damaging to the environment.
She called the omission a "glaring change" and asked that the words be put back into the draft.
A world-class golf course, she added, would bring thousands of visitors to Plum Island and threaten the natural species present there.
"Now is the time to do the best planning for Plum Island," she said, adding that she would like the town, using the power of its Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, to deny the federal government the chance to sell Plum Island.
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski took to the podium before his former town board and lauded the proposed new districts.
"This really shows what Southold Town is like, taking control of its destiny," Krupski said. "You're sending a message back to Congress, who's out of touch about what's important in Southold."
He urged the board to vote on the new legislation as soon as possible. "I'm asking you to vote in two weeks and not let this go any further. This is attracting a lot of attention that will go away once the zoning is in place."
The board tabled the matter until Tuesday night's slated vote.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said, "There are two battles here. Many of you are talking about a pristine island worth saving. But we also need to save the research facility, that employs 400."