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Oct 3, 2017 11:41 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Town Officials Consider Affordable Housing Off Three Mile Harbor Road

Oct 18, 2017 3:14 PM

East Hampton Town officials confirmed this week that they have drafted plans for a hypothetical affordable housing development of 30 single-family homes on land off Three Mile Harbor Road, abutting the Bistrian sand pit, as part of their effort to find new parcels for subsidized housing developments.

The ideas about what could be done on the mostly vacant land that lies between Harbor View Avenue and the edge of the sand pit are still widely varied, in a preliminary stage and complicated by the proximity of the sand pit. Still, the head of the Town Housing Department, Tom Ruhle, acknowledged that draft layout plans have been drawn up to show Town Board members some possibilities should the town seek to purchase the land using funds dedicated to affordable housing.

The property shown in one of the drafts, a copy of which was obtained by The Press, comprises four lots, at 286, 290, 298 and 302 Three Mile Harbor Road. The lots, which total a little more than 12 acres, sit on the east side of Three Mile Harbor Road, just south of Harbor View Drive, and just north and west of the Bistrian property.

The hypothetical layout for development shows the property divided into 30 lots, each about 16,000 square feet, or slightly more than one-third of an acre. Current zoning would require subdivision lots of at least a half acre each.

Though the town could increase density beyond the existing zoning by creating an affordable housing overlay district on the property, Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who spearheads the board’s affordable housing efforts, said she would not support any single-family developments that do not conform to zoning.

“One of the things that made Green Hollow work was that it did not bust zoning,” Ms. Overby said, referring to a 26-home development subsidized by the town that was constructed in 2010. “On a site like that, I’m committed to keeping it with the zoning.”

The plans drafted by the town’s Planning Department, Mr. Ruhle added, are also somewhat overly optimistic, because the gravel pit, which is rimmed by a steep cliff, would likely mean that a number of the lots shown in the hypothetical sketch actually could not be built as shown. The potential unavailability of the privately owned lots and other factors could make the property an unrealistic target for the town also, he noted.

“I can’t say if there is a project there—not because I don’t want to say it, because it simply may not be doable,” Mr. Ruhle said. “It’s just hypotheticals to present to the Town Board what could be done there. This is what you could—could—do there. It would fit X number of lots. Reality builds from there.”

Ms. Overby said that while board members and town staff had visited the land last year, there has not been much discussion of it in recent months. The focus for potential acquisition instead has been on a handful of other parcels, she said.

One of those lots had been a 12-acre parcel off Pantigo Road that was scheduled to go on the foreclosure auction block last month before the auction was canceled. But Ms. Overby said that the town’s hopes of being able to acquire that property—which the Town Board had authorized land acquisition manager Scott Wilson to bid up to $2 million for in the auction—are dimming in the wake of the canceled auction.

But most of the lots the town is looking at are much smaller, between 2 and 6 acres. Smaller lots, while not striking as big a blow to the shortage of affordable housing, can be less controversial sites, the councilwoman said.

The town is overdue to break ground on 12 condominium units in three “manor house” buildings off Accabonac Road nearly 10 years in the planning. Ms. Overby said the groundbreaking, originally planned for July, should take place this month.

The arrangement—a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units in each of three buildings designed to look like large single-family homes—is one Ms. Overby said she thinks will translate well to other parcels the town is eying.

“I think the approach of 12 units would be very acceptable in a lot of areas, whereas 40 units changes the character of a neighborhood,” she said. “I also think the condominium approach is enticing. Young people don’t all want a house—they want an apartment or small condo. It’s more affordable, it fits into our landscape and, I think, it will be acceptable to a community.”

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