Town Hall Notes: Housing commission seeks members, Battery storage task force to form

Jill Doherty, the Town Board liaison to the Housing Advisory Commission, asked the board Tuesday to add two more people to the commission, bringing the total from seven members to nine.

“With the new housing plan, a little bit more is going to be put on that commission and we just feel that we want to try and draw in some younger people; it’s a good working committee,” Ms. Doherty said. “They’re going to be busier because we’ll have the money to give the grants out,” she added in a recent phone interview.

It will be the HAC’s task to advise the Town Board how to best implement the Community Housing Plan, which is currently being drafted by a consultant hired last August from the firm Nelson Pope Voorhis and a temporary volunteer committee called the Housing Review Board. Members of the Housing Review Board include local real estate professionals, business owners, bankers and town employees, as well as representatives from the town’s Housing Advisory Commission, North Fork Housing Alliance and the Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation. In November, 4 out of 5 East End towns held a referendum, voted and approved a 0.5% real estate transfer fee specifically to fund housing solutions. Southold Town is slated to start collecting funds this year but can’t spend any of that money until the town creates a spending plan, holds a public hearing and approves a plan.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell asked Ms. Doherty if they should wait until the housing study was finished before adding more members.

“We’re pretty busy,” Ms. Doherty responded. “We have, I think, four or five affordable housing projects that are out in the wings that we’re working [with the planning department] on.”

The consultant is due to get a draft to the Housing Review Board by Friday, which will then start meeting to review the plan and prepare it to present to the Town Board, according to Ms. Doherty. She said the organization’s goal is to have a plan before the Town Board by March 28.

Battery Storage Task Force

The Town Board authorized town clerk Dennis Noncarrow to advertise for members of a battery energy storage task force as recommended by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

There are currently four applications for battery energy storage systems before Southold Town. One of the most controversial proposals is a 60-megawatt BESS facility on 27 acres along Oregon Road. The public expressed concerns about the proposed location, potential environmental risks and safety issues with the facility. However, town officials also acknowledged that BESS systems are inevitable due to a push towards net-zero emissions and renewable energy.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell proposed a 12-month moratorium on BESS facilities in early January. The board has set a public hearing on the moratorium Tuesday, March 14, at 7 p.m.

“Even if the idea of a moratorium doesn’t pass, I think we can generally agree that we need help to create code,” Mr. Russell said.

Planners seek paid intern

Heather Lanza, the town’s planning director, requested authorization to advertise for a paid seasonal intern within the planning department. The intern would conduct field work to assist with the zoning update, according to the request handed to the Town Board.

The intern would also compile data collected and enter it into computer mapping software or a geographic information system or Excel. That person would also use computer mapping to gather statistics on parcel sizes in particular areas/zones. The employee line is funded at $6,000. The title of the employee would be student intern. Minimum requirements for the position are the applicants must be enrolled in college and be a licensed driver.