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Community Housing Board moving forward with ambitious initiatives

If the newly constituted Community Housing Board seemed a bit flummoxed by the absence of both of its Town Board liaisons at the start of its meeting last week, members quickly settled into substantive discussions about how to push their agenda forward.

By the time Supervisor Gerry Siller was able to join them an hour into the session, the members had agreed on several steps to take and had only a few questions for Mr. Siller about whether they were on the right track.

He lined up with them on the decisions already made and let them know that, while there are many significant initiatives for the Town Board to consider, creating affordable housing tops his list.

Among the steps the group agreed to take are:

• To build four, for-sale houses on land on Manwaring Road. Retired architect Michael Shatken, who created a design for the four, two-bedroom houses for the previous CHB, and continues to work with this new group, told members he has a sense of costs to create the structures. Mr. Shatken believes they can be built without awaiting funding from a Community Housing Fund if voters endorse its creation in November 2022.

Completing the project would help build support for the referendum on the Community Housing Fund and demonstrate to residents that the Town is serious about a commitment to what some other communities are designating as “attainable” housing, or workforce housing.

• Continue to work on proposed rental structures expected to be located at the former highway barn site adjacent to the Shelter Island Historical Society.

• To tour Southampton affordables with Curtis Highsmith — former chairman of Southampton Village’s Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board — before Thanksgiving to see the structures Southampton has created, and to get advice on how the Island might proceed. Mr. Highsmith, who attended the October CHB meeting, brings experience in finance, management and development that he’s shared with other communities. He’s agreed to work with the Island CHB in its efforts to move initiatives forward, Acting CHB Chairman Chris DiOrio said.

• Agreed to contact others with specific experience in areas that include construction, financing and real estate, along with people interested and committed to helping move affordable housing forward. The current five-member CHB would form the basis for an Advisory Board of up to 15 members to develop a plan requiring approval by New York State on how Community Housing Fund resources would be used if a referendum is approved by voters next November.

In addition to the five-member CHB, Mr. Siller said Mr. Shatken and accountant Elizabeth Hanley, whose clients include a number of contractors, should be added to the Advisory Board. That would leave up to eight other slots that could be filled. Under the legislation originally introduced by Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and signed by Governor Kathy Hochul (D) in October, Advisory Board members charged with developing the plan for state approval must all be town residents.

In addition to recommendations from CHB members, there are plans to advertise openings for Advisory Board members. Anyone interested in serving is asked to contact CHB clerk Jane Roberts at [email protected]

CHB members will interview potential Advisory Board members and provide their recommendations to the Town Board for final approval.

At Mr. Siller’s suggestion, the CHB will present an update of efforts to date and plans going forward at the Dec. 7 Town Board work session.

Mr. Siller also told CHB members he will involve them in the Comprehensive Plan efforts he has promised to revive now that the election season has ended.