Town Hall Notes: Carroll Avenue parcel to be rezoned as developer pulls out of housing proposal, Board approves battery storage moratorium

The Southold Town Board passed a measure Tuesday to split a town-owned parcel on Carroll Avenue in Peconic and rezone half of it to the Affordable Housing District zone, while also unanimously accepting the termination of developer Paul Pawlowski’s affordable housing project proposal for the site.

The measure to split the parcel was passed in a 4-2 decision with Councilwoman Louisa Evans and Supervisor Scott Russell dissenting.

The board also passed two requests for proposals for the Carroll Avenue plots. Ms. Evans and Mr. Russell voted against an RFP calling to develop the AHD portion. However, the board voted unanimously to issue an RFP for the other 5-acre site in the hopes of attracting another proposal for a recreational facility.

“The whole discussion was about a specific project for a specific piece of property,” Mr. Russell said, “I saw no need to go forward with a change of zone and no need to go forward with an RFP for the property.”

While Mr. Pawlowski’s proposal, which called for 24 affordable housing units, was withdrawn, other members of the board felt adopting the AHD zoning was a step toward creating needed affordable housing in Southold Town, at a time when the town’s affordable housing registry counts upwards of 300 names.

“There’s so many people that still live with their parents or they’re moving out of town, they want to stay here but they can’t,” Councilwoman Jill Doherty said. “I understand change is hard but we have to embrace the change and try to keep Southold Southold and I feel [Carroll Avenue] is a good place for that.”

A few weeks, ago Mr. Pawlowski withdrew a proposal to build medical offices and 40 affordable housing units at the intersection of Route 48 and Main Street in Greenport.

“My partners and I decided to pull the Carroll Avenue application for affordable housing for similar reasons as to why we recently pulled the Greenport Main Road Project,” Mr. Pawlowski said. “While the town board and planning board were supportive of both projects it was very clear that the NIMBY mentality and, at times, classist attitude towards both projects was something we no longer had the stamina for. We spent more than a year working on the plans, approval process and various steps to achieving affordable housing in our community and finally enough was enough and it was time to move on.”

The developer added he hopes area town boards ”work together to pick properties, define and design site plans and offer an RFP … to help achieve affordable housing in our community.”

The developer’s Carroll Avenue proposal was a component of his larger Sports East project, which would have seen a swimming pool, a multipurpose field, various athletic courts and other amenities all contained within an indoor sports facility. His proposal also called for 24 units of affordable housing. That part of his proposal is now dead.

In December 2022, The Suffolk Times reported that Mr. Pawlowski had removed the recreational facility from his proposal and planned to seek approval only for the affordable housing portion. On Tuesday evening, before the zoning change was approved, members of the public, including several who identified themselves as Carroll Avenue residents, derided the 24-unit affordable housing proposal in their area, citing among other concerns that so many new residents could have potential negative environmental and water quality impacts.

Councilman Brian Mealy said he supported the zone change for the “greater good” of Southold but understands residents’ concerns.

“There is a big picture of affordable housing, and there’s a smaller vision of their community,” he said “And we have to be respectful of both.”

BESS moratorium passes

The Town Board unanimously approved a 12-month moratorium on proposals for battery energy storage systems.

The moratorium halts further action on four BESS applications currently pending before the town, including a controversial proposal along Oregon Road in Cut­ch­ogue, where Key Capture Energy of Albany hopes to build a 60-megawatt BESS facility on 27 acres. The project has drawn public backlash for its location and potential environmental and safety concerns, including local fire departments’ ability to respond to emergencies at the facility.

“I think the reality is that [BESS] facilities are fairly new,” Mr. Russell said. “What we need to do as a community is we need to frankly familiarize ourselves with that technology … Once we develop that understanding we need to develop a town code that’s going to provide reasonable guidance for site requirements, safety components and considerations, all those things that we would do for any use in any zone.” 

To implement the year-long moratorium, the board needed supermajority approval. Mr. Russell said he was “surprised” the resolution had the necessary five votes to overturn the Suffolk County Planning Commission’s recommendation — which was to implement a six-month moratorium — let alone unanimous support.

During Tuesday’s roll call vote, Councilwoman Sarah Nappa called the moratorium a “symbolic gesture.”

“I do not believe in governing by moratorium,” she said. “A moratorium is used when necessary work has not been done. A moratorium is used when the future has not been properly planned for.”

With the moratorium enacted, the town must now look to update its code master plan to integrate BESS facilities. To handle this, the Town Board is forming a seven-to-nine-member BESS task force committee.

Mr. Russell said the town has received approximately 20 resumes from community members, professionals with knowledge of general electrical distribution and even some with experience with BESS technology.

“Hopefully the board will be looking in two weeks to seat a task force,” he said.

CSEA contract approved

The Town Board voted unanimously to approve a collective bargaining agreement with the Southold Unit 8785 of the Civil Service Employee Association Tuesday.

Details of the contract, dated March 16, are unknown, but it will run from Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2026. 

Members of the CSEA unit previously voted to ratify the contract.