New groups seek to create affordabe housing on the North Fork

10/27/2010 7:03 PM |

JUDY AHRENS FILE PHOTO One of many stumbling blocks for the original Community Land Trust of Southold was a protest back in 2005 by neighbors who said the initial site for affordable housing in Greenport would result in too much traffic in a residential area. Now a new group has taken steps to revive the organization.

Less than six months after the Community Land Trust of Southold called it quits with its attempts to create affordable housing on the North Fork, there’s an effort underway to revive its mission but with different leadership.
Eileen McFetridge, a Peconic Landing resident and former member of Community Land Trust of Southold, has been spearheading what she calls the Initiative for Community Land Trust of Southold Town. If it succeeds, an entirely new organization would be set up to carry on CLT’s work.
She cried foul when the original group, by a 5-4 vote, agreed in May to dissolve. Not only weren’t all CLT members notified of the meeting, she said at the time, but at least one person who voted wasn’t even a paying CLT member, as required by the group’s bylaws.
Board members at that meeting asked if anyone else was prepared to step forward and take the reins. No one responded.
But soon after, Ms. McFetridge began to lay the groundwork for a revival, even approaching former CLT leader Andrea Rive to ask that efforts to dissolve the incorporation and the 501(c)3 tax exempt status be halted.
In an August letter to Ms. McFetridge, Ms. Rive never responded directly to the request to cease the dissolution efforts. She wrote only that the dissolution was proving to be “almost as time consuming” as it had been to create the organization seven years ago.
“I understand your sadness that our dream cannot be accomplished by volunteers from the community,” Ms. Rive wrote. “We did a lot of work for many years. We contributed a lot of our own money and unbelievable amounts of time.”
She pointed out that the only local nonprofit housing effort that has been successful in recent years is the Community Development Corporation’s Cottages at Mattituck.
“Their staff are full-time paid employees and they are well funded through the efforts of professional staff grant writers,” Mr. Rive wrote.
What little money remained in the original CLT’s coffers, which board members had planned to give to the Long Island Housing Partnership, by law had to be used only to pay legal and accounting fees and filing fees, Mr. Rive said.
Undeterred, Ms. McFetridge has scheduled three community meetings in November to ask local residents about their needs and their interest in being part of a new effort to promote workforce housing in Southold.
The meetings are set for the Southold Town Human Resources Center in Mattituck on Thursday, Nov. 4, at 1:30 p.m.; the Peconic recreation center on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m.; and the Greenport United Methodist Church on Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m.
She’s also expecting to meet in November with a person who has Ford Foundation money to allocate to community land trust groups. But she’s also eyeing other sources of seed funding to get the fledgling group moving, she said.
On Dec. 12, she has scheduled a fund-raising holiday gathering at The Portly Grape in Greenport, to include seasonal songs and a cocktail reception from 3 to 6:30.
In trying to keep the original CLT incorporation and 501(c)3 alive, Ms. McFetridge is proceeding to file for incorporation and tax-exempt status with a new board of directors.
She is hoping to work with Habitat for Humanity in creating the housing that would give potential residents an opportunity to contribute by working on their own homes.
The need for housing for workers hasn’t changed, Ms. McFetridge said. There are many teachers, nurses and others who commute to work here, but can’t afford to live in Southold Town, she said. Southold Town Deputy Supervisor Phillip Beltz said any effort toward creating affordable housing is “noble” and “a good idea.” But he expressed skepticism about the timing. Suffolk County has the highest rate of foreclosures in the state and the cost of land is high, he said.
The town has inclusionary zoning requiring developers to either build affordable units within their developments or to put up money that would be used for the creation of such housing, he said.
“But construction has come to a halt whether affordable of nonaffordable,” Mr. Beltz said.
Why is Ms. McFetridge optimistic that a renewed effort can succeed?
“The only way it will work is if we have a wide community-based organization,” she said in an interview at Peconic Landing last Thursday. She thinks that the last group failed to communicate regularly with the wider membership and failed to create committees of non-board members who could have shared in the workload.
“I intend to do that,” Ms. McFetridge said.
Ms. Rive declined further comment on Ms. McFetridge’s efforts.

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