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Southold Town may alter code for affordable apartments

Southold is considering an amendment that would alter existing code to allow property owners to expand existing buildings for affordable apartments in Hamlet Business and Hamlet Locus, or HALO, zones. 

A public hearing on the proposed amendment is set for Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. Town code already allows property owners in certain zones to convert existing buildings into a maximum of six affordable apartments. The maximum number of apartments will not change. 

“A few years ago, the town had drafted code that allows buildings to be converted to up to six affordable apartments in commercial zones and residential office space zones … within existing structures. In other words, all the apartments had to be contained within the building that existed and the idea was to not promote new construction, but the adaptive reuse of existing buildings,” Supervisor Scott Russell said. “We found this code to be a little bit limiting, because there’s buildings that the owners would want to add more than the amount of apartments any particular building could host.”

The proposed amendment changes code language to allow “people to buy the buildings and expand them to meet up to six affordable apartments,” he added. 

According to the proposal on the town website, tenants must be on the town’s affordable housing registry and either work or reside in Southold at the time they take possession of the apartment. Units are rent-controlled by town affordable housing standards. The converted apartments must remain apartments for at least eight years after they’re established and the parcel must contain at least one parking space per apartment. 

The proposed amendment notes that, “for purposes of the Bulk Schedule, if only a portion of the building is being converted to apartments pursuant to this section, the apartments shall not be deemed an additional use on the property.” 

Expansions would need Special Exception approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, while conversion without expansion of existing space would only need site plan approval from the town Planning Board. Current code requires all conversions to go to the ZBA for Special Exception review and approval. 

A map outlining HALO and HB zones has been posted on the town website