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Greenport affordable housing proposal met with public support

A proposed 50-unit affordable rental project in Greenport received positive feedback from residents who spoke at the Southold Town Planning Board’s public hearing Monday. But concerns were raised about traffic, the environment and what “affordable” really means. 

The proposed Vineyard View project features seven buildings containing 14 one-bedroom, 22 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom apartments on a 17.2-acre site on County Road 48 in Greenport. A community center is proposed for the center of the property along with picnic tables and a playground. The project was first unveiled in December.

Ten acres of the property would be preserved as open space in the Hamlet Density zoning district east of Chapel Lane, according to the site plan application.

Allen Handelman, vice president of Conifer Realty, LLC, which is heading the project, said he met with local fire departments, school superintendents, civic groups and Greenport Village trustees to discuss what they’d like to see in the area. He said they took into consideration a failed proposal for condominiums and workforce housing at the same site that dated back several years. He said the Vineyard View project would be 50 percent less dense than the failed Northwind Village plan.

“These meetings enhanced our understanding of the town and the challenge of finding affordable housing for the long-term residents and employees of key industries,” Mr. Handelman said. “The advent of AirBnB and other similar services have resulted in the loss of many rental units in the town, with landlords realizing greater revenues during peak seasons.”

The Community Development Corporation of Long Island partnered with Southold Town to make this proposal happen, and were also involved with the Cottages at Mattituck, according to Glen Williams, vice president of asset management and community development for CDCLI.

Residents who spoke Monday favored the project and said there is a dire need for affordable housing in Greenport.

“One of the biggest barriers to self-sufficiency for our clients is affordable housing,” said Cathy Demeroto, director of Community Action Southold Town. “When people are spending a large share of their money on rent, they can’t afford food. When families don’t have adequate nutrition, this will negatively impact their health and it will also have an impact on children’s ability to learn.”

Mr. Handelman said that the units would remain affordable for 50 years under a regulatory agreement, with rents mandated by New York State and indexed to the area median income. Rents have not been set since it is too early in the process. After 50 years, the dwellings will rent for market rate.

Some in attendance called for an environmental impact study and a new traffic study. The last traffic study was done near Youngs Avenue in 2015, but residents worried that location was too far from the projected site to be meaningful.

“On the application, they checked ‘no’ for any substantial increase in traffic and I think that’s something you should have a second look at,” said Anne Murray of East Marion. “I’m also concerned for the need for a left-turning lane. There have been many deer strikes by that turn so it’s a dangerous roadway so I urge you to do another traffic study.”

Attorney Abigail Field raised environmental concerns. She was representing neighbors across the street from the site who could not attend the meeting. She said that while the project incorporates stormwater retention areas and planting of native plants, other issues could come up, like possible endangered wetlands or the use of pesticides getting into bodies of water.

Planning Board vice president Jim Rich said that there would be a new state environmental quality review, but it has not been decided whether an environmental impact study will be required.

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