Rental housing plan in Mattituck gets mixed reviews

The site of a proposed 75-unit affordable housing project on Route 25 in Mattituck. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)
The site of a proposed 75-unit affordable housing project on Route 25 in Mattituck. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Although no official site plan has been filed, a preliminary proposal to construct 75 affordable housing rental units on a wooded parcel along Main Road in Mattituck has already generated debate among residents — and town officials say they are cautiously optimistic about the project.

The property, located across the street from the former Capital One Bank, would feature up to 75 detached one-, two- and three-bedroom cottages, said Mattituck developer Paul Pawlowski. Each would have at least one bedroom, a kitchen, living area, bathroom, attic, small outdoor patio and yard, he said.

The units would all rent for less than $1,400 per month in compliance with Suffolk County and Southold Town affordable housing standards, he said.

“The project is perfect,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said. “It is everything we have been looking for to fill the need for affordable housing. The one problem with that parcel is that area has become an epicenter for everything that takes place. Within a quarter-mile there is a 7-Eleven and a CVS. The last affordable housing community was built right down the road and there is uncertainty about what will come of the Capital One building. This project is a very compelling project, but there are some concerns that we need to resolve if we can.”

When Mr. Pawlowski first brought the idea to the Town Board recently, Councilwoman Jill Doherty expressed concern about the location of the proposed complex, questioning the potential impact it might have on the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District.

Her concerns were echoed by residents who said adding a second affordable housing complex down the road from Southold Town’s only other affordable housing units — The Cottages at Mattituck — would be a “burden” on the hamlet.

“We lost woods when we built the cottages and we added more people into the school district,” said Julie Amper of Mattituck. “Now, we have this other lovely wooded area in Mattituck that they want to tear down and build affordable housing. Back in 2006, when The Cottages at Mattituck were being foisted on our hamlet, we were assured at public meetings by Scott Russell, [town special projects coordinator] Phillip Beltz and members of the planning department that Mattituck would not become the dumping ground for all affordable housing in Southold Town, but that all hamlets would share in the burden. To my knowledge, none of the other hamlets has yet assumed its share of this burden.”

Members of the town’s Housing Advisory Commission, however, have said the proposal has the potential to help solve Southold Town’s long-standing problem of a lack of affordable housing, and could help curb the trend of younger residents leaving Southold Town due to its high cost of living.

Commission member Michael Herbert said addressing the lack of affordable rentals should be a top priority for officials. He said the commission is generally in favor of the Mattituck proposal in its early stages.

“I thought it was a great location,” Mr. Herbert said. “The proximity is conveniently located to buses and the local markets. The size of the parcel, I think, is great. And although I heard that people think there is too much congestion in Mattituck, I think we have to work with what we have. We have to make properties that are affordable to the younger generation, or how else are they going to survive?”

Mr. Pawlowski’s is the first viable proposal to construct affordable rental units presented to the town in recent memory, Mr. Herbert said.

In 2012, the commission requested permission from the Town Board to issue a request for proposals, soliciting contractors to construct affordable units in town. That request generated interest from just one developer who decided not to pursue the project, Mr. Russell said. Other proposals to build affordable housing on different parcels over the years have not come to fruition for a number of reasons, usually because the cost of sewage treatment makes the proposal too prohibitive, he said.

The Mattituck property, however, was priced reasonably enough that Mr. Pawlowski said he would see a return on his investment, despite keeping the units moderately priced. Mr. Pawlowski also said he will be working with Suffolk County’s Department of Health and Human Services to construct an on-site sewer system.

All units would rent for between $1,000 and $1,400, depending on their size, he said. Applicants must fit Southold Town’s criteria to quality for one. This means any person or family must live or be employed by Southold Town for a minimum of three years and must meet county income eligibility standards. For example, a single person must be making less than $88,300 annually. A six-person family would have to pull in less than $146,300 to qualify.

If the project is approved, it would take one year to complete, Mr. Pawlowski said.

The first step toward making the complex a reality would require Town Board action. Members would need to authorize a zone change to allow for affordable housing to be built on the parcel. The land is currently zoned for the construction of residential housing.

About three years ago, the town’s Land Preservation Department looked into preserving the parcel as open space; however, it wasn’t deemed a viable investment at the time.

The Town Board said last week it would consider the zone change but only after the Planning Board reviews a preliminary proposal.

Mr. Pawlowski is a lifelong Southold Town resident who owns Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue and manages several other properties, including commercial properties on the South Fork and a resort in Costa Rica.

If the project is built, he said, his sister would be responsible for managing its day-to-day operations.

[email protected]