The Sag Harbor Village Board unveiled a draft of its proposed new affordable housing zoning code on Tuesday, Feb. 8, as board members work through the issues that arise with dramatically rethinking how to provide housing in a dense community that has seen its property values skyrocket in recent years.
Initially pitched as an Affordable Housing Overlay District, this plan would instead be a series of amendments to the existing village code, said Village Trustee Ed Haye, who is spearheading the village’s Affordable Housing Initiative with fellow Trustee Bob Plumb.
“We intend to incentivize affordable housing of all types,” said Mr. Haye. “We believe this will be very effective, and it’s still intended to cover the entire village.”
The proposal would still be designed to incentivize affordable apartments within the village’s Village Business (VB) and Office District (OD) zoning districts, and to incentivize accessory apartments or apartments in accessory structure in the residentially zoned areas of the village, which are zoned R-20.
The village is also pursuing partnerships with the East Hampton and Southampton Town housing authorities to build larger affordable housing complexes outside of the village boundaries, where acreage is more plentiful, and on the few sites within the village where it is feasible.
“There’s still some work we need to do to make sure these amendments don’t have detrimental interactions with other sections of the code,” said Mr. Haye.
“We are relatively densely built out,” said Mr. Plumb, adding that the Suffolk County Health Department will likely have more influence than the village over whether apartments can be built.
“Anything we do here, because we would be increasing density, will have to go through SEQRA (the State Environmental Quality Review Act) and the state will have to approve it,” added Mr. Plumb.
He added that the village is still working out details about how to keep affordable apartments affordable in the long run, and the draft does not address employee housing or seasonal dwellings that aren’t winterized.
“There will be a work session when we get to a resolution where everyone can talk again,” he said. “And then there will be a public hearing at the end of that process.”
“We want to get this right, rather than get it done fast,” said Mayor Jim Larocca.
Board members didn’t go into depth about the details of the proposed changes, instead recommending holding separate public meetings in the upcoming weeks.
“I have a Master’s level degree, and it’s hard for me to understand what I’m reading,” said Bryony Freij, a housing advocate for East End YIMBY who lives in the village. “Can you please give us the Cliff Notes version, distill it a little bit and give us some bullet points?”
She added that she hopes the board will adopt a proposal to have its meetings continue as hybrid Zoom and in-person sessions so that more parents and working people are able to participate in the discussion.
Anthony Vermandois, an architect in the village, said the link to the proposed residential zoning changes on the village’s website (sagharborny.gov) didn’t work, though the link to the business and office district changes did.
“The business and office district changes look great,” he said.
The village has since updated the links.
Southampton Town Housing Authority Chair Bonnie Cannon urged the board to partner with the town’s housing authority.
“We are willing, and definitely support anything that deals with affordable housing,” she said.
Pilar Moya-Mancera, the Executive Director of Housing Help, Inc. in Huntington, urged the village to include education for landlords in its efforts.
“There’s a lot of education that needs to be done so we can help them to succeed too, and so they know what their rights and responsibilities are,” she said.
Petya Dimitrova, whose boyfriend was born and raised in Sag Harbor, said the couple had recently moved to Manorville because they couldn’t afford to stay in Sag Harbor.
“I’m a real estate agent,” she said. “We know Sag Harbor is packed, but at the same time, I see how the houses are selling and how many families are coming to Sag Harbor. A lot of us are feeling pushed out.”
“It’s getting a little bit out of control. Restaurants are understaffed and nobody can afford to live out there,” she said, adding that she believes if the village doesn’t do something quickly, it may be too late.
“People our age are literally running away,” she said.