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Greenport mayor suggests backing affordable housing proposal

Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. suggested taking more concrete action to support affordable housing at an Oct. 20 work session.

He proposed the trustees sign a sewer contract with developer Paul Pawlowski to allow hook-ups to a potential development with medical offices and affordable housing in Greenport, an idea that met opposition from some members of the board.

“There’s other stuff we could do to promote and we’re not. We could sign the contract for the [sewer] hook-ups,” Mr. Hubbard said. “If he’s not going to get sewer, that changes the outlook of what he’s actually building there and the project will go down … The sewer is critical to that portion of it.”

Mr. Pawlowski’s proposal to build medical offices and affordable apartments at the confluence of County Route 48 and State Route 25 in Greenport was scaled back after meeting some pushback. The village has provided a signed letter of intent, indicating that he will be able to use the Greenport sewer system. 

“Nobody seems to want [affordable housing] near them,” Mr. Hubbard added. “That’s the issue we’re running into all over. Not in my backyard. If we’re serious about affordable housing, or more housing, we have an asset that will help that project work.”

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said it seems that the town is moving forward with the application as though the development will connect with Greenport’s sewer system whether the contract is signed or not. Other trustees pointed out that the parcel is not in village jurisdiction, and residents and environmental groups have requested further environmental review.

“But in the meantime, my feeling was that the Southold Planning Board has got to do their due diligence,” she said. “The Town of Southold has got to make the decision that they want that type of project. It’s not just some of the neighbors that are objecting to it, it’s the environmental groups. I don’t see any hurt in us waiting.”

She pointed out that the hang-up with the project has been the developer’s unwillingness to engage in a full environmental review of the project. At a September Housing Advisory Commission meeting, Mr. Pawlowski said if the Planning Board issues a positive SEQRA declaration for the project, he’s “done.”

“Which is a real shame, because I believe in this project … This is a really good project for our community,” Mr. Pawlowski said at the time. “If a [positive deceleration] is issued on this, I will venture to say there will be no affordable housing in Southold Town.”

Mr. Hubbard said the property had been “cleared 30 years ago” and there are already foundations on the site. He suggested that signing the sewer contract may create a more encouraging environment for the town to approve the affordable housing application. 

“We have a commodity that we’re in the business of selling. So we get a big upfront money to start with, and then we’d have 62 customers for us for life. And we have the room for it. It’s 2% of our overall capacity,” he said. “If it never gets built, it doesn’t hurt anything. But I think it just puts the word out that we’re in favor of this type of development, because we need the apartments for our workers. That’s my opinion.”

Trustee Peter Clarke said he has supported the Planning Board’s handling of the project but said he “can understand that adding additional weight to the project, if we really believe in affordable housing, could maybe make a difference.”

“If that’s the case maybe it would be legitimate to sign the contract and I could be persuaded to change my initial thoughts,” he said. 

“The whole problem at the moment is that the developer does not want to go through a full-blown environmental study,” said Ms. Phillips. “I might change my mind, but I don’t want us influencing something that their SEQRA process goes through and that’s where I stand.” 

“If the developer is putting his money where his mouth is to put affordable housing, he’s not going to say well if I have to do a full environmental study I’m going to yank out,” she added. “That to me is not sincere.”