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Affordable housing development pitched for former Knights of Columbus property in Cutchogue

A new affordable housing development could be coming to Cutchogue — if it gets the nod from the Town Board.

According to a change of zone application filed with the town clerk’s office in August, a developer is seeking to change the zoning of the two-acre Knights of Columbus property on Depot Lane to allow the construction of 16 affordable housing units.

The parcel is currently residentially zoned, which allows for fraternal organizations such as a Knights of Columbus or VFW hall. The applicant, North Fork Community Club LLC, wants to change the zoning to Affordable Housing District, which requires Town Board approval and comes with restrictions, including a mandate that the housing units remain affordable in perpetuity.

Reached by phone last week, Bill Goggins, an attorney for the applicant, said that the site presents a great location for workforce housing. 

“It’s badly needed in the town,” he said, adding that the applicant plans to rehabilitate the existing building and construct a small addition to make way for the units. 

The project, known as Bushwood Manor, was discussed by the Southold Town Planning Board Feb. 24. Since it requires a change of zone, the Planning Board must issue a recommendation for approval or denial to the Town Board, which can then hold a public hearing on the potential rezoning.

During that meeting, town planner Mark Terry gave an overview of the project, which he said proposes to reuse the existing 3,900-square-foot building and parking lot, which is designed for 73 vehicles. He also said the proposed eastward expansion would border Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm, which does not have any development rights intact.

In his presentation, Mr. Terry analyzed the distances between the proposed project and the hamlet HALO zone, classified by the town as areas for growth. According to Mr. Terry, the property lies 251 feet from the Cutchogue HALO boundary and is within walking distance of Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library and the post office. 

“This parcel, although it’s not within the hamlet center, is in good proximity to certain attributes, services as well as schools,” Mr. Terry said.

He said that planning staff feels the project should be recommended because it addresses the goal of dispersing affordable housing throughout the town and no affordable housing is currently offered in the hamlet of Cutchogue.

Mr. Terry also noted that the project meets other goals outlined in the town’s Comprehensive Plan, such as encouraging downtown walkability and adaptive building reuse. 

“It hits on a lot of good qualities in planning,” he said.

Mr. Goggins declined to provide additional details or name his client, but state records show that North Fork Community Club LLC is registered to Jason Barkley of Southold, who purchased the property for $400,000 in 2017.

According to Mr. Terry, there are approximately 400 applicants listed on the town’s affordable housing registry. 

“The demand far outweighs the supply,” he said of the local housing crisis.

While Planning Board members had additional questions about the project, including the proposed building’s aesthetic and the anticipated method of ownership, Mr. Terry said the plans are still preliminary. 

“We don’t have the elevations, we don’t have very large details,” he said.

If approved by the Town Board, the proposal would still be subject to a full site plan review.

In the meantime, the Planning Board is soon expected to issue either a recommendation of support or for denial to the Town Board, which can then set a public hearing on the proposed zoning change.

Members of the Planning Board and Southold Supervisor Scott Russell declined to comment on the application, since it requires a public hearing.