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New Year, New Board, New Hopes for Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust

Posted on 15 January 2014

By Kathryn G. Menu

The Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust has established a new board and has embarked on a detailed study on the affordable housing needs of greater Sag Harbor as the non-profit anticipates funding from the Watchcase condominium project as early as late spring.

At Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, the village board introduced a new local law — up for public hearing at its February 11 meeting — that allows the board to funnel any workforce housing monies it receives from the Watchcase condos or another development project into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.

The housing trust was established in 2008 by then mayor Gregory Ferraris, who currently serves as a member of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board and remains on the board of the housing trust. Under the village’s workforce housing law, adopted into the village code in 2009, trustees could transfer funding to either East Hampton or Southampton towns or to the Long Island Housing Partnership. The new local law adds the housing trust to the list of potential beneficiaries, and according to Mayor Brian Gilbride it is through that non-profit that Sag Harbor intends to funnel any workforce housing funding it receives from development projects.

“This is a great project that has been worked on by a few mayors and hopefully we can see some results here soon,” said Gilbride at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Through the village, the housing trust expects $2.54 million from Cape Advisors, the developers behind the Watchcase condominiums, to develop workforce housing opportunities throughout the Sag Harbor school district, stretching its reach outside of the village boundaries and into Noyac, North Haven and parts of East Hampton.

The trust was created, in part, during the course of the Watchcase’s review by the village in 2008. In reviewing the 64 unit project, located in the historic Bulova Watchcase Factory on Division and Church streets, the Suffolk County Planning Commission handed down a mandate for 20 percent on-site affordable housing — a mandate eventually overruled by both the village planning and zoning board of appeals. Instead, they asked developers provide $2.54 million to the housing trust in lieu of creating on-site affordable housing, despite opposition.

After the resolution was in place, the Watchcase condo project was temporarily derailed in 2009 as part of the fallout from the nationwide economic downturn and housing crisis. With the project now revived, Ferraris began reconstituting the housing trust last summer. The payment schedule into the trust is based on closings of Watchcase apartment sales with the first anticipated revenues expected in late spring or early summer.

In addition to Ferraris and original board member, real estate agent Stacy Pennebaker, the housing trust board also includes planning board chairman Neil Slevin, former North Haven Village mayor and trustee Jack Reiser, Cape Advisors partner David Kronman, Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) member Tim McGuire, attorney Ed Reale, and residents Robert Calvert and Mary Lynn Hess.

Ferraris praised the board as being comprised of a diverse group of professionals able to tackle the issue of housing. He noted Reale has first hand experience working towards developing affordable housing opportunities.

“Ed is a member of the North Fork Housing Alliance and he has also worked with the East Hampton Town Board in their successful efforts to provide workforce housing in that town,” he said in an interview prior to Tuesday’s board meeting.

The board has set up four committees — community outreach, finance and leverage, demographic assessment and analytics — to complete a formal study in the next eight weeks detailing what kind of housing is needed in the area, what funding opportunities are available outside of what is being paid by Cape Advisors, how funding would be best leveraged to help the most people and what is available in terms of real estate.

“Basically, we need to reassess what the need is for workforce housing compared to five years ago,” said Ferraris.

Board members will meet with civic organizations to discuss the issue, as well as some local business owners and their employees who will be polled anonymously on housing needs, said Ferraris.

“We hope to complete our assessment over the next couple months and based on that develop some initiatives we can move on,” he said.

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