Tag Archive | "affordable housing"

Wainscott Parcel Targeted for Affordable Housing

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A plan to build as many as 48 affordable rental apartments on a 31-acre site owned by East Hampton Town in Wainscott was proposed to the Town Board on July 15.

Michael DeSario, the chairman of the Windmill Village Housing Development Fund Corporation, which has been involved with other subsidized housing projects in the town, made his pitch at the board’s weekly work session and stressed that any project is far from a done deal, saying that even if everything went without a hitch, he was looking at a timeframe of up to four to six years before they would be completed.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell agreed with Mr. DeSario’s assessment that the project would take some years to bring to fruition.

“There’s a lot of lead time on a project like this,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell on Wednesday, “but you never get anything done if you don’t get started on something.”

The first hurdle, the supervisor said, would be making sure the project is workable with the tiny Wainscott School District, whose residents enjoy the lowest school tax rate in town.

“We know there is a demand for affordable housing. Young, working familes have few places to live,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Want to consider locations and proposals and get community input.”

“Several months ago, the town asked Windmill to look around and work with the Planning Department to see if there are any sites available for affordable housing,” Mr. DeSario said on Tuesday. “We came up with a couple and this was at the top of the list.”

The targeted site consists of several parcels off Stephen Hands Path, behind the town-owned soccer fields and the Child Development Center of the Hamptons school.

Mr. DeSario said he envisioned a development that would consist of eight buildngs with six apartment units in each one. Twenty would be one-bedroom apartments of about 600 squae feet, 20 would be two-bedroom units of about 800 square feet, and another eight would be three-bedroom units with about 1,200 square feet of living space.

The project would also have a community room and a superintendent’s apartment and could be served by standard individual wastewater systems or a small-scale onsite waste treatment plant.

A wastewater treatment plant could upward of $1 million to build and another $50,000 a year to run, “so we wanted to make sure it could be done either way,” he said.

Mr. DeSario estimated that the complex would cost up to $15 million and would be funded through federal grants and tax credits.

The units would be rented to “low and very-low income people,” Mr. DeSario said, adding that they would provide tenants “with clean, healthy housing that would be guaranteed. They wouldn’t have to wory about being evicted or someone selling and having their rent tripled.”

Although Mr. DeSario said that care had been taken to see that the complex was not populated with too many children—he estimated there would be 30 to 40 children living there—at last week’s board meeting, David Eagan, an attorney and president of the Wainscott School Board, told the board he was worried about the impact the development could have on the district.

Mr. Cantwell said he was aware of the district’s concerns and said the board would wait until Wainscott received a study assessing the impact the project would have on the district before taking the next step.

On Wednesday, Mr. Eagan said the district had hired the SES Study Team, an educaitonal consulting firm, to assess the impact such a housing complex would have on Wainscott.

“The impact is going to be dramatic,” he said. “We know it is going to be profound.”

Besides doubling the number of students in the district, it could “compromise our longheld mission of individualized programs for our students,” he said. “We’re concerned about the need for new facilities, the need for new staff and the impact on the bottom line.”

Supervisor Cantwell said the board was also cognizant of the recent announcement by the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust that it will buy the Cottages, a group of eight affordable housing units on Route 114, which are also in the Wainscott School District. Although those units are currently used for affordable housing, Mr. Cantwell said it is expected they will be expanded and could have an additional impact on the school district.

The Culture of Generosity

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In this wealthy community of lavish parties, high profile people, over-sized houses, and over-priced almost everything else, it’s encouraging to learn about another affordable housing complex being built.

By November 2012, St. Michaels Housing complex in Amagansett, a 40 unit affordable housing project, paid for with HUD funds and property sold by Amagansett’s St. Michaels Lutheran Church (at way below market value), will be up and running.

When I passed St. Michaels church and the neighboring construction site, I noticed how practical the site was: a clinic and gym will be within walking distance; as will the grocery across the street, and the small Amagansett post office. A crosswalk, newly completed on 27, will enable the residents to get from the complex to the other side of the road without risking life and limb.

I wanted to know who qualified, how it came about, who was responsible. So I called St. Michaels pastor, Katrina Foster, who agreed to meet with me and give me the facts.

“How will I know you?” I asked when we set a date and place.

“I’ll look like a pastor” she said, but when she came in the door to the restaurant she looked only young. And happy. She and her very pretty nine-year old daughter Zoia sat down to talk with me. Her daughter immediately pulled out a book and I imagined Zoia was used to her mother giving up her time for other people.

“A single person,” Pastor Foster said, “who can make no more than $36,000, qualifies; $46,000 for a couple. They pay 30 percent of their income for the yearly rental. If they have medical expenses, the 30 percent they pay is after medical expenses are deducted. There’s a lottery of 100 people and we draw 40 people from the lottery based on, one, the homeless (and that constitutes anyone living on someone’s couch or in their car; it really MEANS homeless), two, disabled people and, three, people with the lowest income.

“The minimum age is 62,” she continued. “The 40 people can be from anywhere — from Alaska or anywhere and they don’t have to belong to our church or any church. They don’t have to meet all three criteria, but highest priority is given to homeless first, then disabled and lowest income. An able-bodied person or couple who have a home and are not disabled and who fall within the income guidelines will qualify, but priority is given to those most vulnerable. There’ll be a superintendent at the complex and we’ll also have a 3500 square foot community center for not only the residents but the whole community.”

“All of this,” she said “is for people who have given to their communities as fishermen or teachers, service people; anyone not in a position to stay because they’re unable to find affordable housing. Now St. Michaels will be able to provide such a place, as Whalebone and Windmill Villages One and Two already do.”

“Under the radar,” she said, “is a whole way of life in which people look out for other people. For people who are old, infirm, and without means. It has to do with what it means to live a religious life; it’s a culture of generosity. People donate money or their time; they volunteer to make meals. St. Michaels sold five acres of its land at way below fair market value for this project.”

She told me that Michael de Sario (president of the housing board that secured funding) and Gerry Mooney (a member of St. Michaels and manager of the other existing affordable housing complexes) kept the project going for the ten years it took. But this involved lots and lots of people who never gave up.

“None of us ever gave up and sometimes it was rough going.”

Then she asked if I knew the parable of The Insistent Widow. When it was clear I didn’t, she explained that it involved a judge and a widow in the same town.

“The widow went to the judge asking for justice and help but the judge refused her,” the pastor said. “The widow went back day after day after day. She never gave up. Finally the judge gave in. That’s what we do. We never give up. We just keep working until things get done.”

Before coming here, Pastor Foster was pastor in the Bronx for 16 years where she earned the Bronx Borough President’s Citation of Merit in 2000 and 2004, and was awarded the NAACP’s Women Who Make a Difference Award in 2001. She began serving Incarnation and St. Michaels Lutheran churches in the Hamptons Lutheran Parish on the East End in 2010 when she was told there was a spot in Amagansett where she could be useful.

“I’m here with my wife and our daughter and an array of animals,” she said.

“What do you do when you’re not serving your congregation and everyone who needs help?” I ask…. “IF and WHEN you ever have free time?”

“We go to the beach” she says. “Zoia loves the beach. All three of us, and one dog, love the beach.”

Housing for the Holidays: Families Move Into Homes Built by Business Alliance

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web Biz Alliance Pic

By Kathryn G. Menu

Thanksgiving came early this year for two homeowners and two tenants thanks to the cooperation of several Southampton business owners, the Long Island Housing Partnership and local municipalities, who in a cooperative effort completed an affordable housing project on Merchant’s Path in Sapaponack just in time for the holidays.

On Tuesday, November 23 the Southampton Business Alliance Housing Initiative Corporation (SBAHIC) held a ribbon cutting ceremony at Sagaponack Woods, the Southampton Business Alliance’s first workforce housing project. The moment was the culmination of several years work by business alliance members, who, in 2004, challenged themselves to take a closer look at affordable housing efforts in Southampton.

When the membership realized little was happening to address the need for affordable and workforce housing within the town, Southampton Business Alliance President Rich Warren said the alliance decided to take matters into its own hands. The group took on a mission similar to Habitat for Humanity, and created its own organization to develop workforce housing within Southampton.

“We just didn’t see a significant enough effort being made by the town to create these types of housing opportunities for local residents,” said Warren. “So we, the business alliance, funded the creation of a separate organization, the Southampton Business Alliance Housing Initiative Corporation, whose purpose is to create affordable housing opportunities.”

Warren said within the business alliance, it was clear this was a critical issue in the town, and a number of members agreed to roll up their sleeves and address the issue head-on.

“We reached out to individuals who can provide goods, services, land, expertise, money and support — people who are committed to giving back to our town,” said Warren. “This wasn’t about making money — it’s about giving back and helping others in our community.”

In 2008, the business alliance established the not-for-profit, now led by Anthony Panza, owner of Turtle Pond Builders in Southampton.

“He did the yeoman’s work to get these structures built on Merchant’s Path, coordinating the construction contracts and supervising the construction,” said Warren. “He deserves a lot of credit for the success of this project.”

Warren added that Diana Weir, an SBAHIC board member and executive vice president of the Long Island Housing Partnership, assisted with the lottery for the homes, which was held last month in Southampton Village Hall, as well as mortgage counseling for the new owners.

“She was a really big help in guiding us through our first project,” said Warren.

Homeowners were selected through a strict application and screening process administered by the Long Island Housing Partnership, a not-for-profit housing developer that also provides Long Island residents and municipalities with resources to aid in the creation of workforce housing.

Sagaponack Woods consists of two energy efficient homes each with an accessory apartment on Merchants Path, east of Sagg Road. The Southampton Town Board gave the land to the SBAHIC in 2008. Two families were selected as owners of the properties and hold a mortgage. They will be responsible for renting the accessory units under affordable housing guidelines.

Members of the business alliance did all permitting and design work for the development gratis, a testament, said Warren, to the business community’s commitment to affordable housing development.

Fred Stelle Architects donated their service in the design of the homes, with Squires, Holden, Weisenbacher & Smith creating surveys of the property during the approval process. Inter-Science Research Associates, Warren’s own company, donated planning, design and permitting services, with attorneys John Bennett and James Hulme offering legal expertise. James Zizzi, the first president of the SBAHIC donated both time and money to get the project off the ground in its infancy, said Warren, and engineer Joseph Baier helped shepherd the project through the county health department’s permitting process. The county, he added, waived all health department fees in support of the project.

“This unprecedented cooperation between town officials and the generous members of the Southampton Business Alliance proves that workforce housing can be created efficiently, economically and expediently,” said Panza.

“It’s a beginning,” said Warren. “We’re soon to start work on our next project on Carter Avenue in Hampton Bays.”

That project, said Warren, is currently in the permitting process and will provide one family with a home on property donated by Suffolk County. He added the SBAHIC hopes to create small affordable housing developments across Southampton Town and has been looking at another project in Westhampton, which would require re-zoning by the town, but if accomplished could result in the creation of 10 workforce housing homes.

“This is about lots of volunteerism and a lot of energy,” said Warren.

Local Housing Plans Trumped By State?

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Could the state’s Long Island Workforce Housing Act trump more progressive affordable housing plans on the East End, including a plan over a year in the making in Sag Harbor?

According to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., who is also a village attorney for Sag Harbor, the legislation was drafted as a minimum requirement for municipalities. Currently the law does not expressly state a village or town housing plan can supercede the state law.

 “I just wanted to make sure as we are proposing legislation for inclusionary zoning in our new code,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris on Wednesday, who reached out to Thiele this week for clarity on this concern. “I want to make sure it is consistent with the state legislation and we are not doing something here that could be jeopardized.”

For over a year now, Ferraris has been crafting a Local Residential Housing Plan to address affordable housing in the Village of Sag Harbor to help aid what Ferraris witnessed emerge as one of the most pressing issues facing the East End of Long Island.

The Local Workforce Housing Act proposes to promote second story residential uses in the village business district and incentive and inclusionary zoning provisions in the proposed village zoning code. The village is also exploring legalizing accessory apartments in its draft code as another form of affordable housing and is exploring residential inclusionary zoning requirements as well.

Last month, Ferraris announced the housing plan was gaining steam, as the trust’s board membership began to take shape, and inclusionary zoning provisions appeared to be moving forward in the village’s proposed code. Which was why this week he reached out to Thiele to address the impact of the state legislation on Sag Harbor’s own plan at Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting.

As Thiele explained the law, it is a bill that has actually been pending for a number of years in the New York State Assembly, although it has now passed the state senate and assembly and was recently signed into law by Governor David Paterson. The law, which applies to subdivisions and site plans for five units (or lots) and more, will become law on January 1, 2009.

For those subdivisions and site plans, the applicant is entitled to a density bonus of at least 10 percent, said Thiele, with those units gained as a result of the density bonus earmarked as affordable. Thiele said there are three choices for how the affordable provision can be met – by providing on-site housing, by building the housing elsewhere, or by paying into an affordable housing fund.

This week, Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot fired off a letter to Thiele, State Senator Ken LaValle and Governor Paterson expressing a number of reservations with the housing legislation, including concerns about how the cash in lieu of housing will present a windfall opportunity for developers on the East End.

Kabot argued since the legislation states the developer can pay either two-times the median income or the appraised value of the lot, whichever is less, on the East End developers stand to make a windfall as two times the median income is less than $200,000 and many lots sell for a million dollars.

Thiele disagreed with part of Kabot’s interpretation of the law, specifically who decides how the affordable housing requirement is met – the developer or a municipality.

“I think it is rather clear cut that the municipality chooses the best [affordable housing] option in each case,” said Thiele on Tuesday, whether it be on-site, off-site or payment into the fund.

In a letter this week in response to Kabot’s myriad concerns regarding the housing trust, Thiele acknowledged the legislation is “far from perfect” and believes a number of amendments are necessary for the law to succeed on the East End.

“I don’t think it will work any place on the East End,” he said on Tuesday, agreeing with Kabot that the way the fee requirement is legislated, a windfall for a developer is likely given the difference between median incomes on the East End and the value of land. Thiele said the impact fee should apply solely to the appraised value of the density bonus or land in order to ensure this windfall does not occur.

On Tuesday night’s meeting Thiele noted a broader question for Sag Harbor is whether or not the state law preempts the proposed village law, or whether it was intended to be a minimum requirement.

“One, I think it is a minimum,” he said. “You have communities out there already that have inclusionary zoning laws … the legislation was enacted because a lot of local governments were doing nothing at all.”

“Our concern is the village’s pending legislation is a little more progressive,” said Ferraris.

The inclusionary zoning requirements proposed by the village exceed the state law’s requirements in that 10 percent affordable housing is required for projects with five units or more without a density bonus. Developers would be able to make a cash in lieu of housing payment into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, but at almost twice the price as the state law mandates.

Thiele agreed it would be nice if the state law specifically had a provision that allowed more progressive housing plans to supercede the state law, but continued to maintain it is not the intent of the law to override more progressive or comprehensive housing programs, but rather to require municipalities doing nothing, do something.

Thiele said he will seek an amendment that makes clear this is a minimum affordable housing requirement and municipalities have the right to enact legislation beyond what the state allows.

“I think it is safe to say we will work with the assemblyman to ensure the village’s legislation will supercede the state’s legislation as it is more progressive,” said Ferraris on Wednesday. 

Concern Over State Housing Mandate

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The Long Island Workforce Housing, which mandates inclusionary zoning for all of Nassau and Suffolk counties, passed the state assembly and the senate and was sitting on Governor David Patterson’s desk yesterday awaiting his signature. However Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot has another name for the law, the Long Island Housing Developers Windfall Act.
Kabot, as well as the rest of the town board, fear the law was not vetted at the local level to the extent it should have been. The main issues the town would like to see addressed involve the developers’ ability to opt out when it comes to providing mandated affordable housing.
The way the law is written, any developer seeking to build five or more units would receive a density bonus of ten percent, with all units created through the bonus being affordable workforce units. But Kabot believes that’s where it gets a little dicey, specifically concerning a developer’s option to not build the extra units and instead pay money into a workforce housing trust. The provision has the potential to essentially let a developer pay $200,000 into a housing trust and then build a unit on a lot and sell it, pocketing perhaps millions of dollars.
There are essentially four opt out alternatives, the first being the developer deciding not to build to maximum density which would exempt him from the law altogether. The second alternative allows the developer to simply build the units onsite. But it’s really the remaining two that the supervisor would like to see re-worked. She has contacted State Assemblyman Fred Thiele who has promised, in the case that the law is indeed adopted, which she believes it will be, to pursue chapter amendments in Albany.
“In the event it goes into law,” said Kabot, “there are always ways to amend laws.”
One opt out provision allows the developer to build the affordable units offsite, anywhere in the town. Councilman Dan Russo pointed out that this provision would simply facilitate what has traditionally been the case with affordable housing in the town.
“School districts like Flanders, Hampton Bays and North Sea will continue to get the bulk of the affordable housing,” said Russo.
Kabot echoed his concerns and pointed out that areas like Sagaponack would remain virtually affordable-housing free if developers are simply allowed to transfer the units.
But it is the last alternative, the housing trust, which has Kabot most concerned. A developer is also allowed to opt out and pay a fee in lieu of building units. The way the law is currently written, a developer can either pay twice the area median income of a family of four, which in Southampton comes to roughly $194,200, or the appraised value of the affordable lot.
Town attorney Dan Adams pointed out that, given the vale of land, a developer is most likely to go with the lesser of the two fees.
“If [the development] is in a place where the land value is very high,” he said, “it’s their unfettered right to make one of those choices. With the straight economics of it, they will take the choice that makes the most economic sense to them as a developer.”
“The read is that the developer is in the driver’s seat,” said Kabot, “instead of the town.”
Kabot is also concerned with another aspect of the law, which states that if a developer chooses to pay the fee in lieu of building the units, the town has up to three years to construct the units before it is turned over to the Long Island Housing Partnership. At that point, the not-for-profit is allowed to use 50 percent of the money to build units anywhere in the town while the remaining 50 percent is placed in a revolving loan fund for down-payment assistance to eligible home buyers anywhere on Long Island.
Kabot said while the Long Island Housing partnership is a laudable organization — the town has worked with it in the past, including on the Bridgehampton Mews affordable housing project — it is her belief that the town should be able to decide which not-for-profit should get the money. She also mentioned the town’s own housing authority as a possible option.
Russo said he did not view the three-year window as a major concern.
“In three years, if we can’t do something [with the properties], then shame on us,” he said. “It’s almost like a mandated kick in the butt to the town, which I think some of us need, myself included.”

Top Photo: Southampton Town CPF Manager Mary Wilson explins the new CPF legislation at a twon board work session. (Bayles photo)

Housing Trust Set To Move Forward

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With a proposed zoning code that includes a handful of affordable housing provisions, and $2.524 million dollars expected to flow into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust should the condo project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory get the green light, the village is poised to embark on its first affordable housing program over the course of the next year.

This week, Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris announced two board members have already been selected to serve the housing trust, and expects the board will be fully formed in two months time. Groundwork is also being laid for inter-municipal agreements with neighboring governments for funding of the trust. In addition to a number of inclusionary zoning provisions for commercial projects – expected to be adopted in the proposed zoning code – Ferraris expects the board of trustees to consider inclusionary zoning provisions in residential districts to help bolster the housing trust’s coffers, and therefore affordable housing in the Sag Harbor School District.

Last year, affordable housing emerged as a central debate surrounding the proposed development of 65 luxury condo units at the historic factory building on Division Street after the Suffolk County Planning Commission (SCPC) handed down a mandate in April asking the developers to include 20 percent on-site affordable housing. The motion placed both the planning and zoning board of appeals in a position to overrule the SCPC, which both have done, although the zoning board of appeals must make their ruling official during their August meeting.

Just months after the SCPC’s mandate was passed down, Mayor Ferraris announced the village would create its own housing program with the Long Island Housing Partnership’s administration in order to create workforce housing in the village of Sag Harbor.

Dubbed the Local Residential Housing Plan (LRHP), Mayor Ferraris rolled out a proposal that included the creation of zoning that would promote second story residential uses on the second floor of businesses in the village business district and incentive and inclusionary zoning provisions in what would become the proposed village zoning code. He also discussed legalizing the numerous existing, and illegal, accessory apartments in the village as a method of increasing the village’s housing stock.

As a part of the inclusionary zoning provisions laid out in the LRHP, Ferraris introduced the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust (SHCHT), a not-for-profit corporation which would be formed and run by an independent board of community leaders and would be funded by the inclusionary zoning in the proposed code. The SHCHT, in theory, will provide financial assistance in the form of down payment assistance and low interest financing, but would also seek vacant land and existing structure to develop affordable housing.

While the zoning code being developed by the Village of Sag Harbor will only apply within its municipal boundaries, the LRHP and the housing trust are meant to benefit the whole of the Sag Harbor School District. According to Mayor Ferraris, the housing trust and village will reach out to the towns of East Hampton and Southampton to provide funding through budget line items and will reach out to the Village of North Haven in hopes they will adopt their own inclusionary zoning provisions to benefit the trust as their municipality has residents that stand to be served in its implementation.

The housing trust has already been incorporated and Mayor Ferraris, an accountant, will serve on the board along with real estate agent Stacy Pennebaker and Sag Harbor attorney and former zoning board of appeals member Denise Schoen. According to Ferraris, ideally the board will be fully formed in six to eight weeks and will include someone from the banking industry as well as planning and investment experts and two individuals who have a history in activism and promoting affordable housing.

“I am asking people to come forward,” he said on Friday. “We hope there are people who will step forward to be a part of this.”

Ferraris said thus far the concepts behind the housing trust borrow from municipalities who have successfully created similar trusts, as well as not-for-profits.

“It is not purely municipal and it is not purely for profit,” said Ferraris. In addition to provisions in the code, the housing trust will also seek charitable contributions and grants from political and private foundations, he said, as a part of the revenue stream. 

In the proposed zoning code, accessory apartments in residential and village business districts are allowed with a special exception permit. In the residential district, homeowners seeking to legalize accessory apartments may qualify for a loan from the SHCHT in order to do so. Building owners in the village business district will be offered the incentive of a sewer rent waiver for the accessory unit. Twenty percent of any new apartments in the village business district must be accessory apartments under the proposed code. Permits will be issued by an accessory apartment review board, and no more than 50 in the residential district will be approved.

“We will see how it goes for a year to 18 months,” said Ferraris. “If we are not helping matters we can always change things.”

For apartments to be built in the newly proposed Office District, which includes the proposed Ferry Road condo project, inclusionary zoning will be mandated, asking that 10 percent of the units be affordable. In lieu of on-site housing, developers may instead pay $372,000 per unit into the SHCHT. Proposed apartment buildings with five or less units will not be required to provide on-site housing, but will have to pay $186,000 into the SHCHT.

Ferraris said after the proposed code is adopted, the board of trustees will also consider inclusionary zoning regulations in the residential district. In concept those provisions place a cap on the size of a home, and any home over that square footage must pay into the SHCHT. New subdivision regulations, added Ferraris, are also expected to have inclusionary zoning provisions attached to them.

The next meeting on the village’s proposed zoning code will be held on Monday, August 4 at 6 p.m. 

Bulova Hurdles Slipping Away

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Barring a dramatic turn of events, after several critical votes were made by the zoning board of appeals in favor of the condo project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory, it appears that development is scant steps away from being approved in the Village of Sag Harbor.

On Tuesday, July 15 four members of that board, without their chairman, voted in favor of overturning a Suffolk County Planning Commission recommendation for 20 percent on-site housing in the 65-unit luxury development. In return Sag Development Partners has promised a $2.524 million contribution to the proposed Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.

The vote was conducted in an unofficial straw poll, although it was meant to reflect the board’s ultimate decision and provide village attorney Anthony Tohill the tools to draft a formal resolution for next month’s meeting.

This brings to an end months of debate in front of both the planning and zoning boards on the affordable housing front. Both boards needed to vote via a supermajority, or four members, in order to overrule the county. While the planning board voted in favor of overruling the county this spring, it was unclear until Tuesday which way the zoning board would sway, although its chairman Michael Bromberg has expressed his concern about the proposed housing trust and its ability to actually provide affordable housing.

It was the most vocal member of this board that would ultimately not have a voice in the issue, as Bromberg recused himself from the Bulova application Tuesday night.

Last week Bromberg received a letter from attorney William Esseks of Esseks, Hefter & Angel, one of a number of firms representing Sag Development Partners, demanding his recusal. Esseks took issue with statements Bromberg made during the June zoning board of appeals hearing on the application, specifically when he referred to a “backroom deal” between an unnamed village source and the developers regarding the village affordable housing trust. Esseks charged Bromberg’s statements showed bias against the project and defamed both his clients and village officials, although he failed to specify whom.

While Bromberg confirmed last week he would in fact recuse himself, he explained the reasoning at Tuesday night’s meeting, noting he was recusing himself not at Esseks’ request.

After reading the letter, said Bromberg, he researched some of the case law Esseks cited. He said it was specific to people who made decisions on matters that had yet to come before them — not the case here. 

“The law is pretty simple, unless there is a reason for judicial disqualification, disqualification a matter of personal discretion,” said Bromberg. He added he did not believe he had defamed anyone in his comments, but even if he had, it would not require his recusal.

Bromberg added he objected to the notion that he would recuse himself based on a threat, therefore setting a precedent for those who sit on the zoning board. He denied Esseks’ request and then announced he would recuse himself for his own reasons.

“I don’t see a win in this situation,” said Bromberg, adding he did not want to see the project fail, but had issues with a housing trust that spends money outside of the village. The village’s housing trust is proposed to serve the Sag Harbor School District.

 “I know strongly, in order to save Sag Harbor, you have to make it affordable for the people to serve Sag Harbor,” said Bromberg.

He then left the room after turning the reins over to board member Anton Hagen.

On the housing front, board member Kathy Radziewicz noted that last month she had asked if anyone would come forward at Tuesday’s meeting to express their wish to have an affordable unit in the historic factory building.

“Is there anyone here who would like to make this case,” she asked the crowd of roughly 30 people.

Real estate agent Jane Holden, a staunch supporter of the Bulova condo project, began to speak, but Radziewicz stopped her.

“I know the realtors’ side of this argument,” she said. “I want to hear from someone else.”

Jeremy Samuelson, with Group for the East End, said he had spoken with several people, none who could be at the meeting, as he noted long commutes and second jobs can get in the way of attending a zoning board meeting. Those people, he said, would be interested in an affordable unit.

“I would ask if you have 13 units, is that balanced out by $2.5 million on the other side of the scale,” he said.

“I have spoken to many people this month as well,” said Radziewicz. “For the most part, they feel how I feel. If they have a few children they would rather live in a house with a yard.”

Hagen later agreed, adding he had confidence the trust would be able to provide affordable housing in Sag Harbor.

 “This is a little repetitious, but this has been a very difficult decision for me,” said board member Benedetta Deubel. “I came to the conclusion that there is not a perfect decision, but the best decision for Sag Harbor, which is why I am voting for the override.”

“I think it’s the best thing for Sag Harbor, so I am voting for the override,” ended board member Gayle Pickering, prompting a round of applause from the crowd.

The board also approved four height variances for historic structures on the building, including a brick octagonal tower, a brick water tower and wooden water tank, a brick chimney and a brick tower at the corner of Church and Sage streets. They also approved a variance to allow for a brick tower to screen mechanical equipment and for a special exception permit to allow the residential facility in the village business district.

“The decision was not unexpected,” said Samuelson on Wednesday. “Obviously we don’t think it is a good idea. It is no surprise the village is moving along as quickly as they can. We still think they could have and should have done better.”

“It’s obviously a huge step forward for the project,” said Sag Development Partners spokesman David Kronman on Wednesday. “We still have to get through the rest of the site plan approval process, but at this point we have relatively minor issues to resolve.”

The Bulova project has already received historic preservation and architectural review board approval, as well as harbor committee approval. The project will be in front of the planning board on Tuesday, July 22. The zoning board of appeals will officially adopt its decision on the project on August 19. 

Top: An artists rendering of the condo project at former Bulova Watchcase Factory as seen from Church Street. Middle: Members of the zoning board of appeals following Tuesday’s meeting. Bottom: Project spokesman David Kronman is congratulated by village residents and business owners following Tuesday’s meeting. (k menu photos)