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Transfer of  Development Rights a nonstarter for affordable housing development

Shelter Island won’t be using transfers of development rights (TDRs) in its efforts to create affordable housing.

“As of now, TDRs are off the table,” Supervisor Gerry Siller said, following a report from consultants hired to investigate the possibility of implementing a system of TDRs to foster affordable hosing efforts.

Bryan Grogan, senior vice president of P.W. Grosser Consulting, told the Town Board at its Sept. 7 work session that a lack of a public water system throughout the Island would make it likely impossible to gain Suffolk County Department of Health approval of a system of TDRs.

The consulting firm was hired by the Town Board to investigate whether development rights from properties purchased with Community Preservation Funds could be stripped of their development rights and have those credits applied to sites where affordable housing could be built.

P.W. Grosser officials met with County Health Department officials to scope out requirements for implementing the system that was billed as one of the tools that could be useful in developing an anticipated 20 to 40 units of rental and sale housing units.

If the meeting revealed it would be possible to use TDRs, P.W. Grosser would have been asked to develop a TDR plan.

The only parts of Shelter Island where TDRs could apply would be Shelter Island Heights, Dering Harbor and the West Neck Water District, Mr. Grogan said. The Heights maintains its own water system while the Suffolk County Water Authority manages systems in the other two areas. None of the three areas have Town-owned sites needed for affordables.

From the time Town Attorney Stephen Kiely advised that the state required an investigation of TDRs, the subject has been controversial. Some falsely maintained using TDRs would lead to expansions of commercial establishments on the Island, despite early indications that if a system were to be developed, it could only be used to help establish affordable housing. Others suggested it would lead to hundreds of units of housing.

Without the use of TDRs, there are still tools to help establish affordable housing, including a floating zone that was established in 2008 to facilitate such housing. It allowed for applications to be filed for sites not in the Near Shore and Peninsular Overlay District that could be used for affordable housing.

Another tool would allow for an application of a variance for a site not otherwise zoned, Mr. Kiely said.

The attorney had made statements about no system of TDRs being in place several times. But there still seemed to be confusion about the impact of a TDR system on the Nov. 8 referendum.

That question deals only with whether the Town chooses to participate in the Community Housing Fund created by the state that would enable a 0.5% real estate transfer tax to be used to help pay for affordable housing.