Pictured Above: The Peconic property where Southold Town has accepted a proposal to build affordable housing.
The Southold Town Board has accepted a proposal from Georgica Green Ventures and Housing Initiatives LLC to build 32 units of ownership-based housing at a five-acre site currently owned by the town on Carroll Avenue in Peconic.
The board voted 4-2 at its Dec. 19 meeting to approve two resolutions — to accept the proposal and to sell the property to Georgica Green for $500,000, pending approval of the project by the town’s land use boards.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell and Councilwoman Louisa Evans voted against both resolutions — they had also both voted against issuing the Request for Proposals for housing earlier this year, after former developer Paul Pawlowski backed out of the project after neighbors opposed it.
Mr. Pawlowski had also considered and later withdrawn a proposal for a sports complex on five acres adjacent to this property. The Town Board zoned the southern lot for affordable housing in April of this year.
The town received the new proposal, which detailed “a neighborhood of eight single-story buildings with four cottage-style attached homes in each building,” on Dec. 12.
“The layout was carefully designed in context to the neighboring community with inspiration from Founders Village and Horton Point Lighthouse,” according to the proposal. “We believe the single story attached cottages preserves the character of the neighborhood while maximizing open space to crate native landscaping opportunities throughout the property.”
“The proposed site plan is a for-sale model, but can also be structured as rental units,” it added.
The floor plans show a mix of one to three bedroom apartments ranging from 659 square feet to 1,151 square feet, at sales prices ranging from $285,000 to $380,000.
The applicants had submitted plans for a 24-unit rental complex called Cutchogue Woods on Route 48 in Cutchogue in 2022, but it was shot down by the board after public criticism of rental housing and the project’s location, which was far from public transportation and downtown amenities.
Dave Gallo of Georgica Green Ventures and Rona Smith of Housing Initiatives LLC presented the proposal to the Southold Town Board at its Dec. 19 work session.
Mr. Russell said he was concerned that, while the bulk schedule in the town code allows 32 rental affordable housing units on a property of that size, it only allows 21 units of housing that is owned. He added that he doesn’t think the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals could legally approve the proposal unless the town changes its code. (Southold has also just embarked on an update of its zoning code).
Ms. Smith said the RFP had asked for an ownership-based housing proposal, and she and her partners “followed the precepts that you set out, and said we would go along with that.”
The majority of the board disagreed with the Supervisor.
“This particular project is in a very good place,” said Councilman Greg Doroski. “I have an interest in updating the bulk schedule so the rental and ownership bulk schedules mirror each other. They’re going through the ZBA to get a variance for this project, and this gives us the opportunity to pursue a parallel path with looking at updating the bulk schedule.”
Mr. Doroski added that the town’s current preference, and the language in its Request for Proposals was for ownership-based affordable housing, despite the town’s outdated code. He suggested the board waive the ZBA and planning fees for the project (the waiver of fees was included in the resolution adopted that afternoon).
“We need to assert our legislative authority here,” he said. “This is our property. This is our preference, for ownership. This is our project.”
“We would like to work through the process with the Planning Department,” said Mr. Gallo. “It might be 30 units. It might be 28.”
Councilwoman Jill Doherty, who has been working with Mr. Doroski on potential housing uses for the property since the town began considering purchasing it in 2018, agreed, adding that if the ZBA doesn’t approve the project, the town can issue a new Request for Proposals at that time.
“This is something we’ve committed to. I’d like to move forward with it today,” she said.
At the board meeting later that afternoon, Carroll Avenue resident Rachel Flatley, who has spoken many times against the rezoning, told the board that “every resident on Carroll Avenue is against it.”
She added that about 16 or 17 people live on the short rural street, and that they are interested in continuing to pursue legal action against the town over the zoning change.
“Adding anything from 20-plus houses is going to change the character of the neighborhood and directly affect the people who live there,” she said.
“We have not forgotten about this, because it does affect and will affect our day-to-day lives,” she added. “When you voted on the change of zone, you made clear this was approved because it hadn’t been approved anywhere else. We got the short straw. Take into consideration the people who live there and have invested their life savings in their homes.”
Southold Town Supervisor-Elect Al Krupski, who takes office on Jan. 2, 2024, said he hopes the board’s discussions leading up to the vote “are memorialized in a legal document.”
“Discussions go on a long time, and people forget what was said,” he said. “It’s important all those things be very clear to the community and the developer.”
East Marion resident Anne Murray said she thinks it’s great that Ms. Smith and Georgica Green have come forward with a proposal, but thinks in the future “the town should keep the land and lease it to developers. We’ve seen how prices have skyrocketed in the past few years. You’re going to be enriching the developer at some point.”
“Please keep that in mind for future projects,” she said. “It’s great to see something going forward with Carroll Avenue.”
In casting her ‘no’ vote, Councilwoman Evans said she objected to waiving of town fees, and that the board “just received the plans this week.”
“The new board should have the opportunity to weigh in on this,” she added. “More discussion should have been had.”
Mr. Russell added before casting his ‘no’ vote that he believed the “whole vote lacked transparency,” and that no appraisal of the property was conducted.
“To me, this is nothing more than spot rezoning,” he said.
“So many people in our community cried out for attainable housing. This project is an attempt at that,” said Councilman Brian Mealy, adding that he wants to make good on having given his word to help residents with the housing crisis.
“I want to remind people that when the Mattituck Cottages were proposed, everyone said no, no, no, and it’s turned out to be one of the better projects we’ve had,” said Councilwoman Jill Doherty of an ownership-based 22-cottage project build off of Old Sound Avenue nearly two decades ago. “I’m happy we have a proposal for ownership.”
“I’m fully committed to getting something going,” said Councilwoman Sarah Nappa, who leaves the board at the end of this year. “This has all the things we’ve been looking for. It would be silly for us not to move on this.”
“I appreciate Georgica Green working with us,” she added. “There is still a long process to go. I’m confident in the end we’ll get to a project this community can be proud of.”
A copy of the full proposal is available online here.