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How can Southold spur more affordable housing? Change the code, supe says

01/28/2016 8:00 PM |

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What’s one thing Southold Town desperately needs? According to Town Supervisor Scott Russell, it’s more affordable housing.

With larger apartment complexes failing to earn the public’s — or the town’s — support, Mr. Russell said “drastic” changes to town code may be needed to attract developers with smaller, more manageable projects to the area.

“To really make dramatic strides, we’re going to have to reexamine the code and say, ‘What do we need to do to encourage affordable housing?’ ” Mr. Russell said.

That discussion was just one of numerous topics — including transparency in Greenport Village, code enforcement changes and a pledge of commitment to a local hiking trail plan — brought up by Mr. Russell and Greenport Village Mayor George Hubbard Jr. at the “State of Greenport Village and Southold Town” meeting at Peconic Landing Tuesday night.

At the open forum event, Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Russell both agreed more affordable rental options are needed on the North Fork.

“Southold’s biggest export is its young people,” Mr. Russell said. While he said large developments like a once-proposed 75-unit apartment complex in Mattituck may be too unwieldy, a group of 20 to 25-unit developments spread across the area may help give young professionals more places to live.

Mr. Russell declined, however, to say specifically what changes to the code he’d propose; he said he’d discuss the matter further at a State of the Town speech next month.

During his speech at Tuesday night’s forum, Mr. Hubbard said Greenport Village was making large strides to upgrade its technology and improve transparency in local government. The village building department’s records are being digitized, making it easier for employees to find records and fulfill public information requests.

Mr. Hubbard said the village board will also vote today, Thursday, to start webcasting its meetings online.

“This will bring us into the modern technology,” he said. “We’re trying to move forward into the future.”

Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Russell both faced questions from the audience. Many residents asked about recent town and village efforts to step up code enforcement. In Southold, a part-time code enforcement officer was hired to respond to residents’ complaints on nights and weekends.

Mr. Russell said the town is still receiving complaints about short-term rental houses and is investigating the allegations. But he said the code enforcement officers are more interested in getting property owners to follow the law than in meting out fines and violations.

“The goal is to get compliance,” he said.

Mr. Hubbard said the village’s code enforcement plans were being overhauled to make sure all properties were being treated fairly and equally.

The officials also agreed to move forward with a plan to connect hiking trails in Greenport Village and Southold Town. Both men also stressed the need for infrastructure upgrades. After a round of road repairs last year, Mr. Hubbard said Greenport Village is set to do more repairs this spring.

In Southold Town the problem is more dire, Mr. Russell said. A series of bad winters have caused too much damage to village roads to repair with typical maintenance funds. The town will either have to take out a bond to make the repairs or pierce the narrowing, state-mandated tax levy cap to raise the money.

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Photo credit: Paul Squire

 

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