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Town Board focuses on 2023 goals with the needs of seniors topping the list

This is the first of a two-part series on priorities the Town Board has set for 2023.

It has been a year of considerable concentration by the Town Board on two major initiatives — the affordable housing and providing safe drinking water in the Center.

At an end-of-the-year Town Board work session, Supervisor Gerry Siller outlined a list of projects and prioritized four. Topping his list is the search for a new manager of the Senior Center to be added to the team led by Senior Services Director Laurie Fanelli.

The Town Board also wants to evaluate the programs available to Island seniors and determine if there are ways to provide other.

Second on the supervisor’s list is revising the handling of wetlands permits, transferring the approval process to the Planning Board.

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing is a priority Mr. Siller hopes can be addressed in an amended section of the Town Code. Chapter 150, which deals with housing, needs to be revised, along with expansion of the Community Housing Board.

The seven-member board is currently short three appointees. In the past several months, there has been talk about including all members of the former Community Housing Fund Advisory Board. But based on the most recent discussion, CHB chairwoman Elizabeth Hanley has asked for an addition of someone with environmental knowledge.

Other specialty areas of expertise could include members with construction and finance experience.

But the final area is the most controversial — inclusion of people whose strengths would lie in housing advocacy. They would be people sensitive to the need for housing  through their own experiences. But that raises the question of eligibility for affordable housing, a subject that likely needs guidance from the Board of Ethics.

Any applicant would have to pass a financial review to ensure their income levels don’t exceed what’s allowed by Suffolk County levels.

Once qualified financially, applicants would enter a pool of candidates with a lottery system used to determine who gets available rental apartments or sale houses.

Another issue is what might be needed to provide rental apartments in existing houses or in accessory buildings on privately owned properties. Under terms of how Community Housing Funds can be used is a provision to provide assistance to homeowners to help in converting their properties to accommodate a tenant.

No one wants to see money go to a homeowner who takes funds to convert a property, but then take in a tenant only for a short time. Terms would have to be developed to cover expectation for the amount of time a homeowner would have to provide accessory dwelling units if public money is forthcoming to adapt the house.

There would also need to be assurances that rental units meet safety codes.

Center wastewater

A major project that will continue to claim time and effort is the Center wastewater project.

Pio Lombardo, the Town’s outside consultant, continues work on designing the system, while experts from P.W. Grosser Consulting of Bohemia work on environmental assessments critical to determining the efficacy of the Lombardo plan versus those favoring individual nitrogen reducing I/A systems for several public buildings in the Center.

Part II will continue with a list of close to 20 other projects, some of which will continue to move forward next year.