The Southold Town Board voted down a code change that would allow a 24-unit affordable housing complex known as Cutchogue Woods on Route 48 in Cutchogue at its Aug. 23 meeting.
Town Board members Sarah Nappa and Brian Mealy were the only two members to vote in favor of the code change, which would have rezoned the property from agricultural conservation to an affordable housing overlay district, in the 4-2 vote.
The project is being proposed on nearly six acres of wooded land that sits amidst a long stretch of farmland on Route 48, by Rona Smith, a longtime advocate for affordable housing and former longtime member of the town’s Housing Advisory Commission, who purchased the property earlier this year and is working with Georgica Green Ventures, LLC, a longtime developer of affordable housing on Long Island, to develop the property.
At two lengthy public hearings earlier this summer, many people spoke of the dire need for affordable housing, while neighbors, mostly farmers, said they believed this wasn’t the right place for it.
“This project, while maybe not in the ideal location, is a necessity for this town,” said Ms. Nappa before casting her vote in favor of the project. “As an elected official I’m tired of the lip service being given to affordable housing and how dire the need is. There’s never the perfect parcel, and it’s never the right place. I’m disappointed that this has become somewhat of a political issue because this is the fabric of our community. People cannot afford to live here and work here.”
After calling the project “one of the best proposals we’ve seen so far,” Councilman Greg Doroski said before voting “no” that “I cannot get over the hurdle of location.”
“I do think we need to have a very hard discussion about this priority of locating these high density projects in the hamlet centers,” he said. “There has been a lot of opposition to this project.”
I’m always a person of hope,” said Mr. Mealy before voting yes. “I’m being hopeful that we will keep the eye on the prize in terms of realizing that for the people who are leaving in droves… I’ve heard the need. I’ve seen the need. Many people my age have moved.”
“I purchased the property known as Cutchogue Woods because it’s a prime candidate for development,” said Ms. Smith in the public comment period before the vote. “If this were a plan to build McMansions on that land, I wouldn’t have to come in front of you. I could just do it as of right. This is not a question of development versus preservation. This is about what kind of development does the town want and need.”
She added that the property did not meet Suffolk County’s requirements for preservation, and three McMansions could be built there as of right, with “unregulated clearing on the site.”
Town Supervisor Scott Russell, before casting his “no” vote, said that isn’t true — the property would have to go for subdivision review in front of the planning board before it could be developed, where it would be subject to restrictions on clearing.
Ms. Smith added that the board has been saying for weeks that affordable housing “is a desperate need.”
“Don’t let perfect get in the way of much-needed progress,” she said. “This is going in the right direction. This is a viable project.”