I’ve written about how complex it is to build anything other than a single-family home on the East End. Anyone can build a six-bedroom house with an uncontested (as-of-right) permit process, but try to build three two-bedroom apartments for hospital employees, teachers or retail staff, and all hell breaks loose. We’ve created layers of applications, special exception hearings and permits, over-reaching environmental review, politicized votes and hoops to jump through for anyone to build even a few apartments.
That became evident to me in recent years when speaking about community housing at Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Lions Clubs and citizens advisory committee meetings around the East End. Invariably, when talking about the benefits of local business owners creating small apartments near or attached to their businesses, someone would stand up and say, “That’s what we’ve been trying to do, but they won’t let us.”
Owners spoke about going before town or village boards with their proposal for small-sized apartments. While it seemed to make perfect sense, they would be “denied because the neighbors came in screaming and hollering against it and the board caved in to them.”
These local business owners feel hog-tied by their neighbors and the boards that won’t stand up for their property rights, and they know they could have helped mitigate the housing crisis we’re in today if we supported them. And they’re plenty mad about it.
The complexity, time and expense around permitting for any number of apartments (even a simple accessory apartment) is why we’re in such a housing pickle today. Only deep-pocketed developers, with the resources to hire consultants and attorneys to write 1,000-page environmental impact statements, attend hearing after hearing, listening, ad nauseam, to the same old objections of the loud and angry who march in to “protect life as we know it.” Then, attend scoping sessions for positive declarations on state environmental quality review, and pay the consultants and attorneys again to regurgitate the same 1,000 pages, with updated studies, into a draft environmental impact statement, then final environmental impact statement. It’s complicated and very expensive.
Most of our local business owners have just given up. Instead of growing their businesses, they now reduce their staff, operating days, hours and services as employees move away because they can’t afford to live here and tire of the time and expense in the grueling morning and evening trade parades.
A coffee shop that used to open at 7:30 now opens at 10. A plumber I know has let many clients go because he can’t find helpers to serve them.
We know how to change this and support our local businesses. What are we waiting for?
East End YIMBY
One fine body…