The East Hampton Town Board has held open a public hearing on a proposed series of changes to its accessory apartment code “to make sure our program, as it exists, is being completely utilized by the constituency,” said Town Planning Director Jeremy Samuelson at the April 20 hearing, which has been held open through the board’s Thursday, May 4 meeting at 2 p.m. 

Those changes include allowing attached apartments to be up to 50 percent of the gross floor area of a home (up to 1,200 square feet), allowing apartments in basements and allowing apartments in houses where there is a home business. The law would also be changed to allow 40 such units per school district, up from 20 per school district now, up to a total of 200 units, up from 100 allowed now.

It would also allow detached apartments on lots as small as half an acre — the current code allows the apartments only on properties of at least 3/4 of an acre. The proposal would also allow landlords to rent to tenants making as much as 130 percent of area median income, up from 110 percent now, said Mr. Samuelson.

He added that a change to the proposed legislation since the notice of public hearing went out would not allow accessory apartments in affordable housing and harbor protection overlay districts, at the request of the town’s planning board, and the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA)had not yet been posted on the town’s website.

Springs resident David Buda was quick to point out at the April 20 hearing that Sag Harbor’s recent affordable housing code had recently been struck down by the New York State Supreme Court (see story page 1) due to the lack of public vetting of its SEQRA process.

“This is analogous to what Sag Harbor recently did, a slap-dash SEQRA approval,” said Mr. Buda. “They were not deemed to be following the appropriate legal requirements for a major, significant zoning change.”

Amagansett resident Jaine Mehring added that, while she supported the expansion of the accessory apartment program, the most recent draft of the proposal she had seen on the town’s website was from March 16, after which changes had been made to the document. She added that she believed there should be greater penalties for not following the rules of the program.

“People have to understand messing around with this stuff must not be tolerated,” she said.

Briony Freij of East End YIMBY, who lives in Sag Harbor Village, said that, while her house is governed by the village’s zoning, she’s heartened to see the decrease in the town’s lot size requirement, which would have enabled her to build an accessory apartment if her lot was governed by East Hampton Town zoning. 

“It’s an important thing that really empowers residents to do something concrete to address the housing crisis,” she said. 

Board members said they plan to post the EAF on the town’s website, and the public can continue to weigh in at the May 4 meeting. —BHY

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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