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Housing in Near Shore district — Committee to ask Town Board to explore plan

Community Housing Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Hanley plans to request a meeting with the Town Board to ask for a zoning change to open up potential sites for accessory dwelling units.

When the concept of affordable housing was first established years ago, there was a provision restricting creation of units in the Near Shore and Peninsula Overlay District, which were considered in need of greater environmental protection.

The districts are scattered throughout the Island, including properties:

• Containing wetlands.

• Those where water and other natural resources are considered ecologically sensitive.

• Where the freshwater table is close to sea level, posing a risk of salt water intrusion threatening the availability of potable water.

• Land surface close to the level of the freshwater table that risk pollution of the aquifer.

• Land draining toward creeks or bay waters, increasing potential pollution from surface or below-ground drainage.

• Where density of development could threaten ecology.

• Where land drains toward freshwater ponds that are hydraulically connected to outcroppings of the freshwater table threatening pollution of the freshwater table.

• Where shoreline vegetative buffer is needed to protect bay, creek or fresh waters from pollution caused by stormwater runoff or applications of chemicals to the land.

Any project that fails to meet requirements imposed by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation would still not be able to be approved for accessory structures in those districts. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are on existing properties where apartments, for example, or garages, might be created in either a main house or an accessory building.

But there may be some properties within protected districts that could accommodate ADUs without threatening the environment, Ms. Hanley said at the May 11 Community Housing Board meeting. She would like to reopen the possibility of lifting the overall ban from those properties that aren’t environmentally threatened.

At the same time, the Community Housing Board (CHB) wants to get moving on projects to create ADUs in other areas of the town. The clock is already ticking to use grant money to either bring existing properties up to code to meet requirements for ADUs, or create them out of existing spaces.

The grants of up to $125,000 each must be completed within a two-year period that sunsets in March 2025.

The CHB is looking at dates for a workshop to assist potential homeowners interested in exploring possibilities, and the necessary steps to determine eligibility and begin applying for the grants.

Although the CHB hopes some units created could be rented at affordable prices, that’s not a requirement for a state grant.

Aside from the ADU initiative, Supervisor Gerry Siller told CHB members he has authorized payment for testing at a site envisioned for a possible affordable rental development on South Ferry Road.

What’s the need?

Throughout the discussion of creating affordable housing, there have been questions about quantifying the need. But people seeking rental apartments or expressing interest about purchasing an affordable house have begun filing an indication of interests with CHB clerk Coco Lee Thurman.

Individuals filling a form on the CHB site won’t be publicly identified, but it does enable the board to begin to quantify the need and the types of housing applicants are requesting.