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.