Wary Response to Peconic Affordable Housing As North Fork Civic Groups Prepare Housing Forums
Pictured Above: The parcel proposed for affordable cottages can be seen in the distance from the pitcher’s mound in the baseball field at Tasker Park
Neighbors of a proposed group of 24 affordable cottages on five acres of land currently owned by Southold Town on Carroll Avenue in Peconic made no bones about their opposition to rezoning the land for affordable housing at a March 14 public hearing, and the ghost of a botched lottery for an affordable housing development not far down the road again reared its head.
Their comments come as Southold Town continues work on a Community Housing Plan and local civic groups gear up for a series of forums on local housing in the upcoming weeks.
Southold Town purchased 10.2 acres of land for $750,000 on the east side of Carroll Avenue in 2018. Located across from two-town owned parks, it was initially proposed to be the site of developer Paul Pawlowski’s Sports East indoor athletic complex. The property had been proposed to be subdivided, with Mr. Pawlowski planning to build the sports complex on the northern portion and the affordable “Peconic Cottages” — two-bedroom, 600 square foot cottages on the southern portion. Mr. Pawlowski recently dropped his proposal for the sports complex, but planned to proceed with the housing.
The March 14 hearing, before the Southold Town Board, was to change the zoning of the southern parcel from an Agricultural Conservation zoning district to an Affordable Housing District.
But neighbors of the parcel, unnerved by the management and goings-on at another affordable housing complex, the 50-unit rental complex Vineyard View on Route 48, said this is not what they want to see next door to a park often used by local children.
Carroll Avenue resident Rachel Flatley said Southold Town Police have responded to Vineyard View 135 times since it was built, on calls ranging from inappropriate touching and child abuse to domestic incidents, physical altercations and violations of orders of protection.
A resident of that complex, who was a former school bus driver and janitor at the Southold School District, was arrested there and charged with sexual abuse of a child in January of 2022.
Ms. Flatley added that “many residents of the North Fork were unable to get into the housing” at Vineyard View, because the developers of that complex, Conifer Real Estate Development, advertised widely for applicants for a second lottery after its initial lottery did not meet standards for accessibility set by agencies that provided its funding.
“I believe it will pose a safety risk to people who use Tasker Park, which is right there,” said Ms. Flatley. “This is right next to one of the most popular children’s playgrounds in town.”
Ms. Flatley added that she believes the town would be better off using money to be raised by its new Community Housing Fund to help existing residents buy homes here.
“I feel the same way as everyone else about how badly [the lottery] was run” at Vineyard View, said Town Supervisor Scott Russell, adding that there is no on-site management at that comlex. “I hope Conifer never applies to do an application to do business in Southold Town again. It’s mismanagement on Conifer’s part for everyone who lives there.”
He added that the town has not yet accepted Mr. Pawlowski’s proposal on Carroll Avenue.
Vineyard View isn’t the only affordable housing complex in Southold Town — The Cottages in Mattituck, an ownership-based collection of 22 small houses built by the Community Development Corporation of Long Island off of Old Sound Avenue built in Mattituck in 2006, has long been upheld as an example of a successful approach to affordable housing here. But other recently proposed complexes, from a mixed-use project proposed by Mr. Pawlowski at the blinking light at the intersection of the North Road and Greenport’s Main Street, to two small developments in Cutchogue, have met with much public resistance.
“That property is right in my backyard. My grandparents farmed there. I always thought it was agricultural land,” said Lisa Rosa of the Carroll Avenue property. “We need, as a neighborhood, to band together, because we don’t want this. I don’t want this, with children playing. The traffic there is crazy now.”
Samantha Montorsi of Greenport asked if the town could still change its mind about the use of the property.
“Yes,” said Mr. Russell, who said there hasn’t been an application filed for the construction of the cottages, though the town has had discussions with the developer about the concept. “When it came up on the market, we saw it as a good site to build Sports East, and we thought it could solve two public needs… What happened was Covid, and the spike in demand for construction materials. That made it (the sports complex) cost-prohibitive now.”
He added that the five acres slated for the sports complex “will sit there and hopefully another project will come along.”
The Town Board closed the public hearing to in-person comment and is accepting written comment through April 14.
The Town Board also voted after a public hearing Tuesday evening to remove the cap of 24 units per parcel of land in Affordable Housing Districts in the town’s zoning code, because the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has the final say in how many housing units can be built in an area, based on their septic flow.
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, who is running for Southold Town Supervisor this year, cautioned that “Suffolk County wastewater code is very clear” and that it “isn’t designed to add density.”
Another resident, Rick McMuller, said that people are “just malingering” at the Vineyard View complex, and he doesn’t think people on the North Fork want to live in a housing project.
Councilwoman Jill Doherty said the town is trying to develop its Community Housing Plan, required before the town can spend Community Housing Fund money, to reflect the way people want to live on the North Fork. The draft plan is available on the town’s website.
“It’s got multiple layers in it,” she said. “We want to provide grants to people, for down payments on homes. It’s a multitude of things. It’s not Section 8. It’s renting and owning… It’s community housing.”
“We’re trying to build rungs on a ladder,” said Mr. Russell. “Our affordable housing program allows for up to 120 percent of area median income. I would qualify, and I made $123,000 last year.”
Two of the North Fork’s Civic Associations are planning forums on the town’s Community Housing Plan in the upcoming weeks.
The Southold-Peconic Civic Association (SPCA) will hold a public forum on affordable housing this coming Saturday, March 18 at 10 a.m. at CAST, 53930 Main Road in Southold. Panelists will discuss community housing needs, current affordable housing programs and Southold Town’s draft Community Housing Plan. SPCA board members Alvin Schein and Katy Stokes will moderate the discussion, which includes resident Jackie Hubbard, Giving Room owner Paula DiDonato, Latin Fuzion owner Justo Choquin and a Southold volunteer firefighter.
The following Saturday, March 25, the East Marion Community Association will hold a forum on Affordable and Workforce Housing at the Peconic Landing Community Center Auditorium at 10 a.m. Moderated by CAST Executive Director Cathy Demeroto, the panel will include Southampton Town Planner Mark Terry, Pastor David Menjivar of Más Que Vencedores Church in East Marion, Rona Smith on pitfalls and lessons learned in her housing development efforts, Tanya Palmore of North Fork Housing Alliance on ways to build, preserve, and protect affordable housing, Eric Dantes of the Southold Housing Advisory Commission and Linda Sweeney of Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital on the interests of the local employer community. All are welcome to attend.