The Southold Town Board has turned down a request for a zoning change that would have allowed 16 units of affordable housing on the site of the former Knights of Columbus Hall on Depot Lane in Cutchogue.
At its Nov. 17 meeting, the board voted 4-1, with one abstention, to turn down a request to change the zoning of the two-acre lot from two-acre residential zoning to an affordable housing zoning district .
The project had the backing of the Southold Town Planning Department, which stated in a letter to the town board that affordable housing on the site meets the goals of the town’s newly adopted comprehensive plan, including a goal of disbursing affordable housing throughout the town — no affordable housing has yet been built in the hamlet of Cutchogue.
Neighbors banded together to collect more 200 names on a petition against the zone change earlier this fall.
Councilman Bob Ghosio cast the sole ‘yes’ vote.
“I think that the opportunity for a private sector individual coming to the town and offering to build affordable or workforce housing is rare,” Mr. Ghosio said as he cast his vote. “In my opinion, I think that this particular application would have been appropriate for that spot. It’s an area where there’s quite a bit of mixed use, restaurants and commercial, on that street. I didn’t think it was going to be too big for the parcel.”
Town Supervisor Scott Russell said as he voted ‘no’ that he did think the project would be out of scale, but he thought many people who spoke out against the project did not understand the nature of the town’s affordable housing program. He suggested the town hold a public information session in the upcoming weeks to clarify those misconceptions.
“The project itself is out of scale for a lot of reasons,” said Mr. Russell, who then cited the changing community character due to the recent construction of 124-unit Harvest Point condominium complex not far from Depot Lane, recent subdivision of commercial land in the area and the uncertain future of the closed Our Lady of Mercy Catholic elementary school as major factors in his decision.
“I think the character there is changing dramatically already, and this is going to make it change even more dramatically,” he said.
Mr. Russell did say that Southold has only received three applications for affordable housing in the past 15 years, at a time when the town is facing a severe affordable housing shortage.
“This isn’t going to line the pockets of any developer,” he said. “This zoning designation has so many restrictions. Most developers shy away from that because it isn’t economically feasible for them.”
“While I support efforts to create affordable housing, I believe the size and scope of this project is too big for the location,” said Councilwoman Sarah Nappa of the application.
Fishers Island Justice Louisa Evans, who represents Fishers Island on the town board, agreed with Ms. Nappa as she cast her ‘no’ vote.
Councilman Jim Dinizio abstained.