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Pared down affordable housing project in Cutchogue back on table

An affordable housing proposal in Cutchogue is back on the table, after being voted down more than a year ago. 

An attorney representing the project on the former Knights of Columbus property on Depot Lane said the development has been pared down to 12 units, from the original 16. 

The Southold Town Board voted against a zone change for the parcel in November 2020, following a contentious public hearing the month before. The project would require a zone change from residential zoning to an Affordable Housing District. Town Board member Jill Doherty said when the project had previously come before the board, they felt the project was too big for the area. 

Attorney Bill Goggins said the affordable housing zone change is less intensive than the property’s previous use as a fraternal Catholic organization that sometimes operated as a facility for fundraising or catering. 

“We also believe that the change will be in harmony with the town code and the purpose of the affordable housing district in providing the opportunity for the development of high density housing for families of moderate income and further to do so with sensitivity to the historic and aesthetic character of the town’s existing neighborhoods,” Mr. Goggins said. 

“The application furthers the town’s goals providing quality workforce housing, and that’s really the important part of this. My thought in doing this was we would have housing for the people in town, the volunteer firemen, people who do EMT volunteer work, employees that are stuck living home with their parents because they can’t afford an apartment. It was our goal to get an affordable housing project that could be viable economically but at the same time help this class of people in our community that seem to need a little help,” he added.

Because the project is privately funded, applicants could be restricted to local workers in town — a concern raised by Supervisor Scott Russell about Cutchogue Woods, another affordable housing proposal that recently came before the Town Board. Because Cutchogue Woods would partially rely on outside funding sources, it would not be able to restrict the lottery to local applicants.

Mr. Russell recused himself from the presentation last Tuesday, citing a “perceived conflict of interest” between himself and the presenter. 

“We believe that this is a great location for it,” Mr. Goggins said. He said that the site is walkable, near the post office, shopping, restaurants and farm stands. The development rights to a farm east of the parcel was also sold, meaning “there are transfer [sewer] credits” that can be used for “projects like this.” The 12-unit development would need four sanitary flow credits, which were applied for in September 2020, according to Mr. Goggins. That would allow four 600-square-foot apartments and eight 800-square-foot apartments.

“It’s interesting that the credits from the farm to the east ultimately could be used for the credits that we would need here on this project,” he added. “We hope that the Town Board will consider this and schedule a public hearing to proceed with a zone change to affordable housing so we could proceed to the Planning Board and get the project started.”

Mr. Goggins said the developer has submitted a letter to amend the original zoning change application from 16 units to 12 units. A manager would likely be hired to oversee the development. Apartments might be rented out for around $2,000 per month each. 

Mr. Goggins said the project would not be profitable for a few years. The goal is to pay off the mortgage within 10 or 12 years to make it viable, while putting money aside each month for future maintenance and improvements. 

Applicants would be selected via lottery based on Southold Town’s affordable housing registry.

Mr. Goggins said there has been no opposition from adjacent property owners, although there have been a handful of complaints from residents nearby with concerns focused on traffic and groundwater.

The project would be fully compliant with the county health department on wastewater management, Mr. Goggins said. 

The Town Board asked Mr. Goggins to come back with more details on income targets for the units, compliance with legislation such as the Fair Housing Act and the development’s management.

“I’m going to speak for the board, give them a little time to soak this in a little and maybe in two weeks we’ll come back with an answer for you whether we’re willing to go forward with the change in zone application,” Ms. Doherty said. 

Mr. Goggins and the developer for another proposed affordable housing project in Cutchogue are expected to speak with the Town Board again on March 1. 

There are two other affordable housing proposals in Greenport, one in Southold and another in Peconic.